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L'Adoration des bergers

Laurent de La Hyre

(1606 - 1656) | D.803.15

Date : 1635 | Medium : Oil on canvas

This large painting with an arched upper section was painted in 1635 for the high altar of the church of Capucins du Marais (now Saint-Jean-Saint-François) in Paris. Laurent de La Hyre seems to have had particular ties to the order of Saint Francis of Assisi, as suggested by the number of commissions received from them. And with its sensitivity and delicacy, its subtle rather than ostentatious movements, this painting is also in the spirit of Franciscan humility. The figure of the saint is even depicted above the shepherd on the left. It is truly a masterpiece in the grand manner of painting in the 1630s, the age of ‘Louis XIII Romanticism’. It was during these years that La Hyre demonstrated a real mastery of his art.

The extreme refinement of the forms and colours unites perfectly to create a rustic flavour – for example, the shepherd on the left or the ruins in the foreground. Although characteristic of a certain vision of reality that was prevalent at the time, in La Hyre’s hands they are transformed into real ‘sequences’. The painter also demonstrates his capacity to create a large-scale work and that he knows how to ‘fill [it] without overburdening it and how to preserve a perfect unity thanks to the play of the rhythms of light and shade’ (Jacques Thuillier).

It was also during this period, with the ‘Parisian Atticism’ of the 1640's, that a certain type of French figure began to emerge in Paris that was soon to be considered as classical: an elegant, refined figure, somewhat round, and La Hyre was one of its inventors.