Adoration of the Shepherds
H. 3 i/III; W. 2; Roethlisberger (Bloemaert) 49
Sheet: 37.7 x 30.2 cm (14 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.) Platemark: 35.9 x 28.4 cm (14 1/8 x 11 3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Apart from his output as a reproductive engraver and etcher, few facts are known about Stock’s life. He is believed to have been born about 1580, possibly in Antwerp. He may have learned engraving from Jacques de Gheyn. In 1613, he joined the artist’s guild in The Hague. About 1641, he was imprisoned for counterfeiting coins but was pardoned in 1642. He is believed to have died in 1648 or later in The Hague.
Stock is best known for the book illustrations and portraits that he engraved and etched. On a few occasions, however, he produced arresting work based on the designs of major artists, notably the present work after Bloemaert and a “Sacrifice of Isaac” after Rubens. His earliest dated work is 1614, but the “The Adoration” must be considerably earlier since Jacques Razet died in 1609. This leads one to believe that Stock produced his most remarkable work while under the watchful eye of a great master, possibly De Gheyn or Crispin van de Passe.
Bloemaert was the leading artist in Utrecht–the center of Dutch Catholicism–during the first half of the 17th Century. He lived to the age of 85, and his powers remained undiminished to the end. He had numerous students. His style evolved from Mannerism to Caravaggism. While the exaggerated, graceful, twisting forms and fluttering drapery of “The Adoration” epitomize Bloemaert’s brand of Mannerism, its otherworldly lighting effects also suggest why Bloemaert was open to Caravaggist ideas.
Jacques Razet, the Amsterdam publisher, issued nine plates after Bloemaert’s designs between 1593 and 1609. “The Adoration” is one of the best, though not the largest. His omission of Bloemaert’s name from the plate could not have been an act of piracy, for the two were good friends, and Razet was an enthusiastic collector of Bloemaert’s work.
The Adoration of the Shepherds was a favorite Bloemaert theme. The present version is among the earliest. It is much more animated than the early painted version in Berlin. As is often the case in Mannerist works, important biblical figures–in this case the Holy Family–are accorded little visual emphasis. Here, the major figure is a shepherdess whose unnaturally twisting body is contrasted to the straightness of her houlette (staff with a scoop for pitching pebbles or clods of dirt to guide the sheep). The staff also draws the viewer’s eye from the solid architectural elements in the foreground to the turbulent clouds above, bypassing and further distancing the highly emotional scene of the middleground.
Hill-Stone (New York); from whom purchased by MFA, 19 September 2007.
Katherine E. Bullard Fund in memory of Francis Bullard