Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Marcellus Coffermans (Netherlandish, active 1549–70)
probably 1561
Oil on wood
8 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (20.6 x 14 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 639
A master in the Antwerp painter’s guild since 1549, Coffermans was not interested in the Italianate mannerist style of his own time, but took his inspiration primarily from the works of artists active two or three generations before him. His rendition of this subject is decidedly traditional. The arrangement of the crowded scene, with the angel’s annunciation to the shepherds depicted in the background, ultimately derives from works by Hugo van der Goes and Gerard David.

The signature MARCEL.HELMON.FE[CIT] in the lower right corner suggests that the painter came from the Brabantine city of Helmond.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): MARCEL.HELMON.FE[CIT]
J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (by 1912–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17)
Walter Cohen in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 7, Leipzig, 1912, p. 172, as certainly by Coffermans.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, p. 154, ill., note that Coffermans uses the same elements as Van der Goes and Gerard David, but in a "decidedly old-fashioned" manner for a work dated about 1550; observe that the signature "MARCEL HELMON. FEC." suggests that "Coffermans came originally from the small town of Helmont near the southern border of the present-day Netherlands".

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 93–94.

R. H. Wilenski. Flemish Painters, 1430–1830. New York, 1960, vol. 1, pp. 126, 313, vol. 2, pl. 401, does not connect the "Marcel Helmon" of the inscription with Coffermans; says the picture may have been painted in Antwerp about 1550.

Friedrich Winkler. Das Werk des Hugo van der Goes. Berlin, 1964, p. 172 n. 2, compares the group of angels in this panel with that in Provost's "Virgin and Child" (now MMA 1976.201.17) and in the central panel of the altarpiece by the Master of Evora in the Museu Regional, Evora, Portugal; notes that the latter two compositions are based on a lost work of Hugo van der Goes.

Edward Morris and Martin Hopkinson. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool: Foreign Catalogue. [Liverpool], 1977, text vol., p. 146, ascribe a "Nativity" in the Walker Art Gallery (no. 1993) to Coffermans on the basis of our signed picture of the same subject.

Matías Díaz Padrón. "Identificación de algunas pinturas de Marcelus Coffermans." Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique Bulletin 1–3 (1981–84), p. 49, fig. 11, says this belongs to Coffermans's style, and shows the obvious influence of Hugo van der Goes and Gerard David; mentions a signed replica in a private collection in Madrid, and another version on the art market in Madrid.

Walter S. Gibson. "Mirror of the Earth": The World Landscape in Sixteenth-century Flemish Painting. Princeton, 1989, p. 95 n. 9, states [erroneously] that Coffermans signed his name as "Lucas Helmon".

D. Beaujean in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 20, Munich, 1998, p. 142, lists it among accepted works of the artist.

Marc Rudolf de Vrij. Marcellus Coffermans. Amsterdam, 2003, pp. 36–38, 97–98, no. 1, notes that it is the artist's earliest dated painting.

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