Annunciation to the Shepherds

Laura Ramirez

Professor Kaminska


MFA Paper

Joachim Wtewael’s piece titled Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1606, is a colorful and dramatic oil painting that’s effectively representing an annunciation while degrading into the background with a Nativity scene. It’s located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and it’s believed to be from the Netherlandish period. The scene is being represented as chaotic with a lack of any true perspective or one-single focus point, yet their bold use of colors with smooth and well-defined lines ameliorates the piece with a profunded theological apprehension.

Throughout the religious painting, we can see that Wtewael used a combination of fine formal themes and artistic components in order to represent the Annunciation of Nativity of Jesus Christ and the peculiar expressions of the shepherds and shepherdesses indicates their bewilderment and or obliviosity. The many descending figures in the composition are believed to be cherubs and or angels who are appraising to the birth of Christ to the Shepherds.

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Wtewael’s chosen application with perspective, tone, color, shape, line, value, and texture is successfully describing the events of the stated scene; which fulfill and execute aspects to convey a sense of movement for the viewers from the Annunciation of Christ.

Throughout the piece, we can see that there’s a immense range of vibrant and serene color usage that it achieves to create a variety of complimentary colors. The overall usage of color is complex but sticks to its natural identity and creates a concession of unity.

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To illustrate, the disarranged symmetry and perplexity of the shepherds in the composition is creating a radiant essence by recreating earthly hues and tones such as the bronze sfumato texture that was applied on the soil and the unrefined vegetation that’s adjoined. The dilapidated barn estates, with broken planks of wood, appear to be disregarded and are shown to be at different inclinations, conveying disarray and perhaps certifying the lives of secular people. The distorted bodies could be delineating the muscularity of men, which tells us that Wtewael was well cultivated by how the anatomy of humankind operates and the simple flaws of men, physically and spiritually. In view of the numerous figures, Wtewael utilizes an number of soft techniques to produce needle-like lines of brushstrokes that have a defined quality to show subtle figures. Additionally, the figures are anatomically correct when it correlates to the proportions regarding the body and realism in art. Wtewael has also chosen to combined a naturalist compositional landscape in order to represent character interaction. However, the artist was also able to integrate proportional bodies in a chaotic and complex location. Our eyes tend to wander all over the illustration due to the lack of any true perspective; the viewer doesn’t have a focal point because every part of this scene is expressing a different essence of emotion. The chaotic perspective is simply adding more value to the piece and the soft composition of lines purely add to the disarrayed figures and how careful the artist was to show smooth and resilient brushstrokes. By closer observation, we see that the light of Heaven is performing a significant role by impersonating a striking shadow down onto the figures, as if evincing that they have been living in the darkness without the guidance of religion; until the essence of the angels approached them.

In the art piece, the light source is from the light of the heavens, in which Wtewael uses creamy pastel colors to contrast the tenebrous scene. The extremely heavenly bright light is also adding a dramatic shadow effect by the shepherdess to the right who is blocking her eyes. Her expressions is not of distraught, rather it’s expressing puzzlement from the sudden light source. We can discern the overshadow from her hand, which is implying that that’s where most of the heavenly light is shining. In addition to the light, to the left of the art piece, we see another shepard whose whole body is casted down by a shadow excluding his reached out hand, which is being shined by the light. In closer inspection of the painting, the warm and bright light causes the Cherubs and Angel to be obtrude but still mingle with the scene. The light and color elements that the artist chose creates an interconnection with the sky and the angels, in which they’re the cause of the light source to the painting. The formal elements of tone and color supports the background by establishing a concrete image with a pragmatic composition, in which the artist achieved in creating. In regards to the sky, we can see soft and melodious texture situated in the clouds compared to the wooden barns and plantation, which are more intrinsic. In spite of the painting being two-dimensional, the detailed textures achieve in creating the scene practical; the ostentatious segments maneuvers the viewer to perceive more textural sections around the figures and surroundings. For instance, the vibrant red clothing of some of the shepherds creates a sensible texture into the background and becomes visually interesting; the texture is enhancing and supporting the concept behind the artwork and the soft brushstrokes creates a flowing mellow pattern, which is adding a tranquility sensation to the scene. The surface quality in the artpiece has a sensing through touch and gives us a visual sensation of how a figure is represented physically; whether it’s soft, hard, or smooth, the artist is able to represent texture by combining other formal elements. As shown in the illusion, the texture of the plantation and the animals’ fur can be considered an optical texture because it dabs on realism and the lucid usage of hues and motion.

Prior to the usage of lines, the smooth lines and color is creating structure and providing an embodiment of movement and disposition, which is engendering forms and shapes with expression through value. The usage of line is expressing the artist’s ability to show his accuracy in strokes and outlines the depiction into the shape of their forms in order to imply motion during certain parts, such as the lines of the clouds. It’s clear to say that the many lines are not symmetrical but still conveys a sense of stability that helps create an illusion of a three-dimensional space thus showing that the artist achieved in perfecting his perspective line techniques. There is also curvy and diagonal lines that are conveying a feeling of energy and gestures. The lines softens the composition and emphasis some areas to stand out by contrasting segments of the art piece. The surrounding space creates ambiguity and enrichment to refer to a presentiment of profundity and three dimensionals, in this case, the artist’s usage of negative and positive space is inessential to the piece, but there’s still space implemented; Wtewael ensures the usage of size in order to create a perspective scenery to develop the conception of space. In closer inspection, we can anticipate the red attire that the Angel and some of the shepherds are sporting can be evaluated as the negative space due to its vibrant intensity, which catches the viewer’s eye. Subsequently, the art piece has a dimension of 66 ? x 53 ? inches, which is quite large but small enough to be suitable for a home, perhaps quintessential to discern the many characteristics and formal elements that Wtewael adjoined. The size is able to feature how the artist is wishing to convey the painting and to experience theatrical sensation. If the painting were to be smaller then I sincerely believed that it wouldn’t have the same impact as it did when I was analysing it, personally the size of the painting appears to be impeccable. Similar to one of Michelangelo’s paintings, The Last Judgement, both paintings are expressing disarrayed yet luxurious biblical narratives that corresponds with their artistic styles and ability to use formal elements. Michelangelo’s art piece is depicting the second coming of Christ and is radiating the figure of Christ, which correlates to the Annunciation to the Shepherds since both biblical stories narrate the beginning and/or ending of Christ. Similar to Michelangelo, Wtewael has a pious atmosphere that sends a message to the viewer, and they do this by their usage of pastel/creamy color palettes. The linear composition in both paintings can be considered as soft and flowing but is able to emphasize contrast and conveys the composition to be pragmatic. When it comes to value, there appears to be more light shining from Michelangelo’s piece, whether as Wtewael’s light source is slowly appearing from the sky, this relates to Christ as his beginning to humanity and his sacrifice to us. Both paintings are expressing a chaotic scene of the events of Christ, but in Wtewael’s painting, he has a more peaceful atmosphere while Michelangelo’s piece shows the faith of humanity. The clothing, anatomy, objects and texture is also authentic and shows the astounding skills of the artists; we can also see their own depiction of the biblical stories.

In conclusion, Joachim Wtewael was able to triumphantly add a dramatic scene that’s representing an annunciation while degrading the background with Nativity. By utilizing a combination of formal elements, the artist was able to represent a chaotic scene with smooth lines and a the disarray of perspective which executed aspects to convey a sense of movement and amusement to the viewer. The chaotic scene symbolizes the annunciation to Christ to the shepherds, who can be considered as unknowing to religion that their world becomes completely dark; until the light of the Heaven sky appears. Throughout his usage of color, line, texture, value, and perspective, the artist emanates an alluring yet concise biblical story like no other artist.

Cite this page

Annunciation to the Shepherds. (2019, Nov 21). Retrieved from

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