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Title The Adoration of the Shepherds
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Pitati, Bonifazio de` (Italian painter, 1487-1553)
Previously attributed to Licinio, Bernardino (Italian painter, ca.1489-ca.1565)
Previously attributed to Palma, Jacopo, il vecchio (Italian painter, ca. 1479-1528)
Date Earliest about 1520
Date Latest about 1540
Description This painting shows the influence of Palma Vecchio, for whom Bonifazio worked as an assistant, while the pastoral landscape is reminiscent of Titian and Giorgione. The painting possesses typical Venetian characteristics such as richness of colour, and the unity of landscape and figures within it. The figures are arranged on a simple, stage-like space. Behind them, a road winds into the distance with figures, buildings and trees used as simple spatial markers to give recession.

The Adoration of the Shepherds is not a common theme before 1480 in Western Europe (though it is common in Byzantine art). The Shepherds represent the first Jewish converts to Christianity, an apt subject in a period of religious fervour, paranoia and persecution at the approach of the Millennium. The ruins in the background relate to the Synagogue - the Old Testament of the Jews replaced by the New Testament of Christ.

Current Accession Number 1955P101
Former Accession Number P.10155
Subject religion (Adoration of the Shepherds)
Measurements 118.1 x 152.4 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Purchased from Clive Pearson with the aid of the National Art-Collections Fund 1955.
Provenance Lindsay Holford; Holford sale, 15 July 1927, lot 16, bought by Annie Lady Cowdray; Clive Pearson.
Principal Exhibitions Royal Academy, London, 1893, cat. no. 158; Venetian Art, New Gallery, 1894, no 224; Royal Academy, London, 1908, cat. no. 30; Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1915, cat. no. 11; The Holford Collection, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1924, cat. no. 43; Italian Art, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1955, cat. no. 17.
Publications Waagen, G. F., Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 1854; Berenson, Venetian Painters, 1894, p III; Berenson, B., The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York and London, p. 36; Berenson, B., Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Venetian School, vol. 1, p. 41; Holford Collection Catalogue, 1924, no. 43, pl. XLVI; Westphal, D., Boniface Veronese, Munich, 1931, p. 96 as not by Bonifazio; Waterhouse, E. K., 'The Italian Exhibition at Birmingham', Burlington Magazine, vol. 97, 1955, p. 295; Vertova, L. 'Bernadino Licinio' I Pittori Bergamaschi del XIII al XIX secolo. Il cinquecento, vol. 1, pp. 412-413, no. 14, pl. 3, attributed to Licinio; Wickhoff, E., 'Auf der Werkstaff Bonifazios', Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorisches Sammhungen der Allerhochsten Kaiserhauses, vol. 24, 1903, Vienna, pp. 87 - 104; Faggin, G.T., 'Bonifacio ai Camerlenghi', Arte Veneta, vol. 17, 1963, p. 94; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 11, ill.
Notes Clive Pearson, Parham House, Sussex.

Berenson considered it mainly autograph in the 1957 edition of Venetian School. This painting is very similar to one by Palma Vecchio in the Louvre (Spahn, A., Liepzig, 1932). Faggin accepts it as autograph. The facial type of St Joseph in this painting is similar to that of St Joseph in Rest on the Flight to Egypt with Monk behind a hedge (Adelaide National Gallery, Australia)

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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