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The Angel and the Shepherds (L'ange et les bergers)

James Tissot

European Art

In Luke’s Gospel, the shepherds in the hills and valleys surrounding Bethlehem first learn of the miraculous event from an angel who announces the birth of the Savior. The accompanying angels joyously sing their praise of God and urge good will to men, a passage that gives its name to a well-known hymn, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the Highest).

In the text he wrote to accompany this image, Tissot explains the local practices for pasturage in the Middle East, noting that small bands of shepherds gathered around campfires and alternated watches to care for their flocks. Attentive to this practical detail, Tissot casts the faces of his shepherds in the orange glow of their warming fire—a striking contrast to the verdant surroundings of sheltering trees and the dark night sky.

After waking their companions, the shepherds, accompanied by a few sheep, pay homage to the newborn child in the low-ceilinged grotto. While some shepherds register their wonder with their hands upraised, others proffer modest gifts of livestock and loaded baskets.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 5 9/16 x 7 9/16 in. (14.1 x 19.2 cm) Sheet: 5 9/16 x 7 9/16 in. (14.1 x 19.2 cm) Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed top left: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.25
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION James Tissot (Nantes, France, 1836–1902, Chenecey–Buillon, France). The Angel and the Shepherds (L'ange et les bergers), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 5 9/16 x 7 9/16 in. (14.1 x 19.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.25 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.25_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.25_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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