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Overview

This small devotional image of The Adoration of the Shepherds, illusionistically framed in ebony, is surrounded by a lush garland of flowers. The Adoration is so delicately rendered that even at its diminutive scale the faces of the Holy Family and shepherds are clearly articulated with delicate brushwork. The elaborate garland includes a wide array of cut flowers, including tulips, roses, lilies-of-the- valley, narcisses, and irises rendered with extraordinary delicacy. The garland reinforces the devotional nature of the composition since the richness and beauty of flowers were celebrated as evidence of God's bounty in the natural world.

Painted on copper, this small image is the collaborative effort of the Flemish artist Frans Francken the Younger and an unknown floral specialist who monogrammed the painting "HBD" at the bottom right of the painted ebony frame. Francken's monogram, "FF F" (Frans Francken fecit), appears at the lower left of the religious image.

Francken and his studio collaborated with a number of different floral specialists over the years in their religious scenes with garlands. Such compositions were enormously popular in the 17th century, both for their religious sentiment and their exquisite beauty. Such assemblages of flowers were not possible in reality, as the blossoms occurred at different times of the year. Here arranged into one sumptuous display, they offer a visual feast to collectors and connoisseurs.

Inscription

lower left of adoration scene in monogram: FF F; lower right of on painted frame in monogram: HDB[?]

Provenance

Stuttgart Museum.[1] (dealer, Lake District, England); purchased early 1930s by Helen B. [Mrs. Thomas] Lillie; by inheritance to her daughter, Helen M. Lillie Marwick [Mrs. Charles S. Marwick, 1915-2003], Washington, D.C.; bequest 2003 to NGA.

Bibliography
2005
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 108-111, color repro.