- Museum number
The Adoration of the Shepherds, related to the painting in the National Gallery, London (NG 6277); interior with Mary kneeling near Christ at right
Pen and brown ink, brown wash. over black chalk
- Production date
- 1633 (circa)
Height: 190 millimetres
Width: 258 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- A study for the painting now in the National Gallery, London (Blunt 1966, no. 40) which was probably commissioned by Giovan Carlo de'Medici as it is recorded at the Villa Mezzomonte near Florence in 1637. The date of the painting is generally agreed to be from the first half of the 1630s. As is normally the case with Poussin's studies, he made only minor adjustments to the composition in the finished work, removing the fragment of a frieze in the left foreground, the tethered lamb before Christ, and placing the nose of the ox on the right behind St Joseph. The artist made more substantial changes to the architectural setting: moving the columns to the right, thereby eliminating the sliver of landscape behind Joseph, closing off the glimpse of sky in the left corner and also increasing the size of the arched opening in the centre. The general assumption that the upper part of the BM drawing has been cut off is open to question as Poussin may have conceived a horizontal treatment of the subject without the flying putti above the Holy Family. In favour of this is the squat proportions of the arch in the drawing which focuses attention on the angel announcing Christ's birth, a figure removed in the picture in favour of a burst of light. It is also hard to imagine that Poussin would have designed a long strip of empty sky on the leftmost part of his composition if he were thinking of an upright design.
The Christ Church drawing of the five putti (Rosenberg and Prat no. 74) must postdate the present one as the arched opening in the background is much higher, although there must have been later studies as Poussin had not yet devised the architrave carried by the two columns that forms the upper part of the National Gallery painting. Poussin's first thoughts for the central figures in the NG painting are known through a faint black chalk study on the verso of a 'Rape of the Sabines' study at Windsor (Rosenberg and Prat no. 80), illustrated as fig. 8 on p. 339 of Wine's 2001 catalogue.
The unusually finished nature of the BM drawing has led to detractors: even Rosenberg and Prat while accepting it as Poussin do so with some reticence. The provenance of the drawing is illustrious with it featuring in reverse in Charles Massé's print in the 'Cabinet Jabach' (fig. 75a in Rosenberg and Prat), and later Arthur Pond etched it in reverse for 'Prints in Imitation of Drawings' when it was in John Campbell's collection, BM impressions 2006,U.1123 and 1936,1116.2126.43.
Lit.: W. Friedlaender and A. Blunt, 'The drawings of Nicolas Poussin, catalogue raisonné', London, 1939, I, no. 35.A6, p. 19, pl. 69 (as Studio of Poussin); A. Blunt, 'The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin, a critical catalogue', London, 1966, under no. 40. p. 32; H. Brigstocke, in exhib. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean, 'A loan exhibition of drawings by Nicolas Poussin from British collections', 1990, no. 25; P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, 'Nicolas Poussin, 1594 -1665: catalogue raisonné des dessins', Milan, 1994, no. 74, p. 132 (with previous literature); H. Wine, 'National Gallery catalogues, The 17th-Century French Paintings', London, 2001, pp. 336-9, fig. 7
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/1 Dec-Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Drawings by Poussin, no.25
1994 Jun-Aug, London, Courtauld Institute, 'Re-Presenting Poussin' no.16
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- It is not clear whether Lely owned the drawing before Jabach or vice versa, see Rosenberg and Prat.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number