The Adoration of the Shepherds

Theodoor van Loon (Flemish, about 1581/2–1667)


250 x 167 cm (98 1/2 x 65 3/4 in.) - unframed

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

William I. Koch Gallery (Gallery 250)





Van Loon’s large canvas depicts the New Testament episode in which shepherds discover the Christ Child in the manger—a subject that allowed the artist to emphasize the revelation of Christ’s divinity. Van Loon spent most of his career in Brussels and executed commissions for local churches seeking striking paintings with recognizable subjects that would reinvigorate the faith of Catholics after the Protestant Reformation. His dramatic use of shadow and light demonstrates the strong influence of Caravaggio, whose work he encountered during his sojourn in Rome. Van Loon vied for commissions from the Archduchess Isabella with Peter Paul Rubens, who worked in a markedly different, more exuberant style.


Prince Capece Zurlo, Naples; François Heim, Paris [see note 1]. About 1988, Eric Turquin, Paris; sold by Eric Turquin to Claude Ott, Paris; sold by Claude Ott to a private collector, France; December 7, 2000, sold by this private collector at Sotheby's, London, lot C30, to Johnny van Haeften for the MFA. (Accession Date: January 24, 2001)

[1] According to correspondence in the MFA's object files, the painting was acquired by Francois Heim from Prince Zurlo.

Credit Line

Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund