The Adoration of the Shepherds
The focus of this large altarpiece is the tiny infant Christ - he lies on the ground, his head supported by a small cushion. His mother, the Virgin Mary, kneels behind him, surrounded by angels. Also gathered in worship are Mary's husband Joseph and, to the left, four shepherds.
The shepherds appear only in the Gospel of Luke, which describes how they saw a vision of the angel of the Lord who told them the news of Christ's birth. Signorelli has depicted this event on the hillside to the left of the picture.
Drawing was an important part of Signorelli's artistic process and he planned his paintings with careful preparatory studies. A study for the group of shepherds (British Museum, London) is...