Monthly Masterpiece December 2014
Rotterdam ca. 1620 - 1691 Rotterdam
Adoration of the Shepherds
Painted circa 1660
Signed: F. verwilt (lower left on stone)
Panel, 42 x 62 cm
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague
See how the shepherds arrive to greet the Christ Child. This was certainly the most popular Christmas scene in the 17th century.
Everyday people got the honour of first seeing the newborn King – weeks before the Three Kings.
François Verwilt has a small known oeuvre of circa 30 paintings and he made at least five Adorations of the Shepherds.
One is in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, another also in Rotterdam, in the Historical Museum; the third in Castle Zuylen.
The picture we offer for sale stands out because of its outstandingly good condition.
In the 17th century artists used the technique of glazing. Thin layers of transparent paint were applied on top of the dried opaque paint.
In most paintings the top layer has disappeared over time because of incorrect restoration. In this picture the glazes all survived.
Even after 350 years the paint today looks surprisingly fresh and brilliant.
This painting came up for sale some 10 years ago in a local German auction house. It had accumulated dirt over layers of yellowed varnish, and therefore its brilliant colours and the detail in the figures and background were hardly visible. Careful cleaning and restoration by professionals revealed the beautiful masterpiece that Verwilt painted three and a half centuries ago. The Adoration of the Shepherds is an incredible and unique find.
The style of the Rotterdam painter François Verwilt resembles that of Cornelis van Poelenburch, one of the most expensive artists during the 17th century. When looking at quality rather than names, one can still find truly great masterpieces.
The painting in its unrestored state: