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The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds

A work made of etching, engraving, and drypoint in black on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of etching, engraving, and drypoint in black on ivory laid paper.




Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch, 1606-1669

About this artwork

This nocturnal scene from the Gospel of Luke represents Rembrandt’s first attempt to render shadows in print with the same gravity and depth he achieved in oil paint. In the upper left, an angel stands before a glowing celestial vortex and announces the birth of Christ. At the center of the divine light is the dove of the Holy Spirit, defined by a few small marks. Terrified by the sudden blast in the night, herdsman and their beasts run amok.
To depict the stunning collision between heaven and earth, Rembrandt first scratched a detailed compositional outline with a sharp needle and etched lines. He then built a range of grays and deep blacks by crisscrossing layers of lines in varying widths. This fine netting of shadow echoes the spontaneity of the moment and differs from the rigidity and systematized decorative patterns seen in the work of predecessors such as Hendrik Goudt.


Currently Off View


Prints and Drawings


Rembrandt van Rijn


The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds


Holland (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1634


Etching, engraving, and drypoint in black on ivory laid paper


Image/plate: 25.9 × 21.8 cm (10 1/4 × 8 5/8 in.); Sheet: 26.2 × 22 cm (10 3/8 × 8 11/16 in.)

Credit Line

Clarence Buckingham Collection

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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