Skip to main content

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Pieter Aertsen

(1508 - 1575) | 907.1.84

Date : Circa 1555 | Medium : Oil on wood

Pieter Aertsen’s art is instantly recognisable. The painter loves to present his characters in a tightly composed framework, with only three quarters of the faces of the animals shown. The Virgin is a robust young country girl with a calm face and the faces of the other peasants and the baby Jesus often reappear in his works.

Alongside the picture in Lille museum (The Milkmaid), the Rouen painting is the only work by Pieter Aertsen in public collections in France. However, as a painter he marks a turning point, introducing major innovations to Dutch painting in the second half of the 16th century. His original style was an ingenious mix of Italian nobility and Northern European realism, drawing on his experience of painting across three countries – Holland, Flanders and Italy. 

Like Pieter Brueghel, he reintroduced the world of the peasantry into religious painting. He was also one of the first artists to paint still lifes in Flanders along with his pupil Beuckelaer. He also introduced elements of Italian painting into Dutch painting, such as the use of architectural motifs from Antiquity, (plinths, fluted columns) and above all certain aspects of the Venetian style: the Tintoretto-like faces and decorative landscapes.