Title of Artwork: “The Adoration of the Shepherds”
Artwork by Giorgione
Year Created 1505 – 1510
Summary of The Adoration of the Shepherds
Giorgione, an Italian Renaissance painter, finished The Adoration of the Shepherds in 1505–1510. The painting is sometimes still referred to as the Allendale Nativity, after a previous owner. Although the attribution is now generally accepted, it is not universally held; the other common opinion is that it was painted by an early Titian. Without a doubt, it is a work of art from the Venetian school. This piece is on view in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
All About The Adoration of the Shepherds
A set of paintings is frequently labelled as the “Allendale group”, after the Allendale Nativity. The Adoration of the Magi predella panel in London’s National Gallery is also part of this set, as is the Washington church’s Holy Family painting. This collection, which is progressively being expanded to include another Adoration of the Shepherds in Vienna and occasionally even further, is typically included (increasingly) or removed jointly from Giorgione’s work.
Giorgione presented the primary scene on the right, in front of a gloomy grotto, while on the left is brilliant landscape capped with trees. The placement of the knelt shepherd pilgrims in the middle of the painting creates a genuine dramatic tension. Together, the parents, child, and pilgrim make constitute a centred rectangle that acts as a counterpoint to the fading countryside on the left.
Giorgione likely worked on this while he was a member of the workshop of Vincenzo Catena, a devout disciple of Giovanni Bellini’s.
Adoration des bergers by “Giorgon (Giorgio Barbarelli dit le)” sold at the Palazzo Ricci, Rome on 18 March 1845 (lot 874) for 1,760 scudi (£370.53 at a rate of 4.75 scudi to the pound) while in the possession of Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839). Huge and flamboyant collector, the Cardinal was Napoleon’s uncle. There were 1,837 artworks for sale on March 17 and 18, although the Louvre only had 1,406 at the time. The collection contained Fra Angelico’s Last Judgement and Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
Adoration of the Shepherds by Giorgione was thereafter held by Claudius Tarral of Paris, who sold it at Christie’s in London on 11 June 1847 (lot 55). There were 55 artworks up for bid, and they brought in a total of £3,383. In total, the Giorgione brought in £1,544 (1,470 guineas). This high price tag in comparison to the entire sale plus the fact that it was the last lot cried suggest that this was the best item up for bid.
Thomas Wentworth Beaumont (1792-1848) of Bretton Hall, West Yorkshire, England purchased the artwork at auction in 1847. Wentworth Blackett Beaumont, 1st Baron Allendale (1829-1907) had it passed down to him, as did his son, Wentworth Beaumont, 1st Viscount Allendale [1860-1923], and then his grandson, Wentworth Beaumont, 2nd Viscount Allendale (1890-1956).
After lengthy discussions with Lord Allendale, Joseph Duveen finally purchased the Nativity from him on August 5, 1937. According to Edward Fowles, a coworker of Duveen’s, the piece cost $315,000 plus $5,000 to dealer Charles Ruck, which was “a Giorgione price” at the time. There was a war of wits between Duveen and the expert, art historian Bernard Berenson, who was convinced the painting was by early Titian.
Allendale Nativity was the final straw that broke the friendship between Lord Duveen and Berenson, one of the most consequential partnerships in 20th-century art. In 1938, Duveen fetched $400,000 from department store tycoon Samuel Kress for a painting he claimed was by Giorgione. During the Christmas season, he put a Nativity scene in the shop window on Fifth Avenue.