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Wood engraving.

Collection of biblical images drawn from the complete illustrated Bible published in 1865. Engravings by H. Pisan from the pencil illustrations of Gustave Doré.

Doré (1832–1883) was an extraordinarily gifted French designer best known for his book illustrations. His illustrations are characterized by strong contrast, “claustrophobic spaces,” and sorrowful characters. Though he was born many years into the era of French Romanticism, his biblical art is unquestionably of the style of that age. Romanticism is characterized by imagination and emotion, a movement that emerged in response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789.


Here the Adoration of the Shepherds has a somber tone. It is difficult to distinguish which of the bearded figures is Joseph, or whether he has been depicted here. Two of the male figures hold the staff, which we may associate with shepherds. Two other men clutch their hands together over the figure of the baby Jesus. Their expressions are pained. Some of the other figures that surround the manger appear to be women. We see that their heads are cloaked, and the woman at the foot of the manger has bare feet. The figure in the foreground has his bare back to us, and he is also bare foot. His arm rests on a sheep, as if to tell the viewer that he is a shepherd. A lamb lies on the floor next to Jesus. The ox lies on the ground, and watches the scene. The light in this scene emanates from the baby Jesus. His light is so intense that it casts a shadow behind the Virgin Mary and illuminates the otherwise darkened room.


Artwork in the public domain