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The Adoration of the Shepherds
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

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The Adoration of the Shepherds

1612 - 1614. Oil on canvas.
Room 007A

On 14 February 1612 Juan Bautista Maíno signed the contract to execute the paintings for the monastery church of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo. Maíno agreed to a period of eight months to make the paintings, which had to portray the scenes and episodes specified by the prior of the monastery. Despite the agreement reached in the contract, the paintings were not completed until December 1614. In the meantime Maíno entered the monastery, becoming a member of the Dominican Order on 27 July 1613.

As a result, this altarpiece is the key reference point in Maíno´s oeuvre. Antonio Palomino based his judgement of the artist’s work on it, describing Maíno as one of the most eminent painters of his day, as can be seen in his works for the said house [San Pedro Mártir], particularly the high altar of that church with the four canvases of the Cuatro Pascuas [four feasts], in which there are excellent nudes and other things painted in majestic life-size. For his part, Ponz singled out the invention, knowledge of chiaroscuro, draughtsmanship and skill in the use of colour that Maíno’s paintings revealed, and he was the first to refer to the subjects depicted: The coming of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection of Christ, his Birth and the Adoration of the Magi. Together, these are the most important episodes in the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection, and thus constitute the great iconic images of the Catholic world and the most important festivals in the ecclesiastical calendar, known together in Spanish as the Cuatro Pascuas.

Closely following the Gospel of Saint Luke (2:7-14), this composition illustrates the moment when a group of shepherds and angels contemplate and venerate the Infant Christ. The scene is set in a ruined building as dusk falls, to judge from the evening light visible in the background. The figures are arranged on three, clearly differentiated levels. The centre of the canvas shows the Virgin and Saint Joseph kneeling before the Christ Child, who lies on a stone block padded with grass and corn stalks. A little way away from this group but level with it, a middle-aged shepherd of robust appearance contemplates the Infant, his right hand holding a kid by one of its horns while his left hand is placed on his breast in a sign of respect, acknowledgement and affection. Leaning over the wall enclosing this central scene and close to Saint Joseph are the heads of the ox and the ass. The upper part of the canvas is filled with a group of angels who watch the scene with interest, while in the lower part two young shepherds recline on the ground, one playing the flute and the one, nearer the viewer, turning his back to the principal scene.

It would appear that this three-layered arrangement was not Maíno’s initial idea. The x-ray of the canvas reveals that the artist originally devised a different composition in which Mary was kneeling with her hands outstretched in a gesture of devotion and humility also conveyed by the position of her head, which was inclined to the right. Her gesture was serious and her gaze lowered towards the Infant Christ, who must have been located on the ground, as in numerous medieval depictions of this scene. In the x-ray the Virgin’s figure is well defined, indicating that Maíno had a clear idea with regard to the composition, in which the principal group occupied almost all the lower half of the scene, leaving the upper part for the rest of the figures. This two-part composition, also found in the work of artists who undoubtedly influenced Maíno such as Savoldo and Caravaggio, would harmonise with the other canvases in the altarpiece. However, such a markedly vertical format would have impeded the development of the other characters in this episode, particularly the shepherds and the angels.

Thus, Maíno abandoned his initial idea for the composition and placed greater emphasis on a markedly vertical presentation, in line with works by Tintoretto and El Greco found in Toledo and its vicinity. The triple structure, with the figures in the foreground surrounded by everyday objects and enveloped in a bright light that creates a strong contrast of volumes and textures, recalls examples of the same subject by Tintoretto and his workshop, both the one painted for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Venice) and the version executed for the monastery of El Escorial, which arrived in Spain in 1584. Maíno could easily have seen the latter, as well as various works on this subject by El Greco. The importance assigned to the angels and shepherds in the present canvas can also be found in El Greco’s late versions, both the one for the altarpiece of the seminary of Doña María de Aragón and the one that El Greco painted for his own funerary chapel in the Toledan monastery of Santo Domingo el Antiguo.

The latter canvas must have been well advanced by late 1612. It is a work in which light and colour are crucial in the conveyance of the remarkable parousia. By this time El Greco was an elderly artist working in an outdated style, but he continued to be a key reference point in Toledan painting. Many of the elements used by El Greco are found in this canvas by Maíno, but they are filtered and revised in the light of the innovations that he assimilated in Rome.

Notable among these innovations are Caravaggesque elements together with the use of a bright, enamel-like palette that also looks to Orazio Gentileschi, an important influence for the figure of Mary, whom Maíno depicts as a young woman with an idealised face that becomes the central point of the entire composition. Enriqueta Harris highlighted parallels with Caravaggio and the connections between both Caravaggio and Maíno and the Brescian school. With regard to the angels, who are presented as young men of a distinctly human type, Harris drew attention to examples by Caravaggio, as did Angulo and Pérez Sánchez, including those in the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew in the Contarelli chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. These lively and very real figures have abandoned their celestial abode to watch with great interest from a bank of thick, stone-like grey clouds the scene that is unfolding.

Other direct borrowings from Caravaggio are the two shepherds in the foreground, in which Maíno again looked to the repoussoir figures in the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. There are Venetian precedents for such figures, which Spear considered to be close to paintings by the Bassano and which may also refer to the work of Tintoretto. Their poses do not convey the usual expression of joy and veneration and in this respect, and in particular with regard to the shepherd nearest to the viewer (which Mayer believed was a clear reference to the classical sculpture of the Dying Gaul)], Angulo noted his sadness, even profound sorrow, possibly weighed down by forebodings of the Passion. Emphasising this idea is the presence of the lamb with its legs bound, an image of the Agnus Dei. This redemptive reading has recently been reinforced by Margit Kern, for whom the figures of the sorrowful shepherd (a version of the Roman gladiator), the lamb and the Christ Child create an ascending vision of the redemption of mankind, representing as they do pagan, Hebrew and Christian sacrifice respectively.

Another figure of particular note is that of Saint Joseph, whom traditional Western iconography had relegated to a minor position in this episode. In Maíno’s composition he is shown as filled with tenderness for the Christ Child, leaning over him to take his hand and gently kiss it. The gesture and the youthful depiction of Joseph relate Maíno’s presentation of this figure to the new interest in the Saint following the Council of Trent. The correct Counter-reformatory presentation of this figure showed him as a young man, capable of caring and providing food for Mary and the Infant Christ, and as a protective companion. In De Historia sacrarum imaginum et picturarum by Johannes Molanus (1533-1585), the fact that Saint Joseph takes the Christ Child’s hand signifies that he has fully assumed his role as the Infant’s father. The x-ray of the canvas shows that Joseph was originally depicted as a mature man with a wrinkled brow, flabby cheeks and abundant but greying hair.

The idea of protection is also conveyed by the proximity of the heads of the ox and ass, which are painted with a high degree of realism evident in the depiction of the ass’s harness, revealing Maíno’s concern for the small details and characteristics of the objects that he portrayed. Such an approach explains Justi’s opinion, who considered that Maíno executed this canvas with the patience of a still-life painter.

Also significant is the presence of the steamy breath of the ox, suggesting the warmth and protection that the animal provided. The presence of this beast looks back to medieval depictions of the subject but is also found in El Greco’s versions and was repeated by Maíno in other works on the same subject. This canvas was on deposit with the Museo Balaguer in Vilanova i la Geltrú between 1882 and 1971 (Ruiz, L.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 289-291).


Technical data

Inventory number
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
The Adoration of the Shepherds
1612 - 1614
Height: 314.4 cm; Width: 174.4 cm; Grosor: 7 cm
Retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas. Iglesia de San Pedro Mártir, Toledo.
Church of the Dominican Convent of San Pedro Mártir, Toledo; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España, I, Joachin Ibarra, Madrid, 1776, pp. 162 (carta IV).

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 153, n. 204.

Justi, C., Diego Velázquez und sein jahrhundert, Max Cohen & sohn, Bonn, 1888, pp. 78.

Mayer, August L., Geschichte Der Spanischen Malerei, Klinkhardt & Bierman, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 420.

Loga, Valerian von, Die Malerei in Spanien: vom XIV. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert, G. Grote'sche verlagsBuchhandlung, Berlin, 1923, pp. 242.

Harris, Enriqueta, Aportaciones para el estudio de Juan Bautista Maíno, Revista española de arte, IV, 8, 1935, pp. 333-339 [336].

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Breve historia de la pintura española, Tecnos, Madrid, 1953, pp. 231.

García Figar, A., Fray Juan Bautista Maíno, pintor español, Goya: Revista de Arte, 25, 1958, pp. 6-13 [6].

Angulo Íñiguez, D.; Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Historia de la pintura española: escuela madrileña del primer tercio del siglo XVII, Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1969, pp. 309, n. 5.

Ars Hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispánico, XV, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1971, pp. 30.

Spear, R. E., Caravaggio and his followers, Harper & Row, New York, 1971, pp. 123-125, n. 42.

Caravaggio y el naturalismo español, Comisaría General de Exposiciones de la Dirección, Madrid, 1973, pp. 70, n. 72.

El Toledo de Domyco Theotocopuly: El Greco, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1982, pp. 174, n. 143.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 388.

Menéndez Pidal, R.; Jover, J. M.; Riquer, M. de et ál, El siglo de Don Quijote, XXVI, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1986, pp. 678-680, n. 273.

Brown, Jonathan, Velázquez: pintor y cortesano, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 60.

Serrera, J. M., Juan Bautista Maíno: Notas sobre el retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 1989, pp. 35-41.

Nicolson, Benedict, Caravaggism in Europe, II, Umberto Allemandi & C., Turin, 1990, pp. 475.

Brown, Jonathan, La Edad de Oro de la pintura en España, Nerea, Madrid, 1990, pp. 102, n. 89.

Ayala Mallory, Nina, Del Greco a Murillo: la pintura española del Siglo de Oro, 1, Alianza, Madrid, 1991, pp. 73, n. 58.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991, pp. 83.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., De pintura y pintores: la configuración de los modelos visuales en la pintura española, Alianza, Madrid, 1993, pp. il. 70.

Boitani, M. C., Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, [S.L.], 1995, pp. 122.

Réau, L., Iconografía del Arte Cristiano, T. I, vol. 2, Barcelona, 1996.

Brown, Jonathan, Painting in Spain 1500-1700, Yale University Press, Yale, 1998, pp. 89, n. 115.

Triadó, Joan-Ramon, La Pintura Española. El Siglo de Oro, Carroggio, Barcelona, 1999, pp. 42, 44.

Justi, C., Velázquez y su siglo, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1999, pp. 78.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 190-192.

Kern, M., Eine Kulturgeschichte des Opfers. Die 'Anbetung der Hirten' von Juan Bautista Maíno. En: Kirchliche kultur und kunst des 17. Jahrhunderts in Spanien, Vervuert, Fráncfort, 2004, pp. 89-122.

Ruiz, L, 'Juan Bautista Maino. Adoración de los pastores.' En:, Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2005, pp. 202-205 n.44.

Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, V, T.F. Editores-Fundación Amigos, Madrid, 2006, pp. 1843.

Calvesi, M.; Zuccari, A., Da Caravaggio ai Caravaggeschi, Cam editrice, Roma, 2009, pp. 365-372/564.

Ruíz Gómez, L, Juan Bautista Maíno, 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 114-119, n. 13.

Gayo, Mª D.; Jover de Celis, M., Evolución de las preparaciones en la pintura sobre lienzo de los siglos XVII y XVIII en España, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXVIII, 2010, pp. 39-59.

Ruíz Gómez, L., Algunas notas después de la exposición Juna Bautista Maíno (1581-1649) en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXIX, 2011, pp. 78-96 [83].

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage, San Petersburgo, 2011, pp. 122-123.

Papi, Gianni, Antologia di artisti 'Un San Matteo e l' angelo' di Juan Bautista Maino, Paragone, LXVII, 2016, pp. 61-64 [61, 63 l.55].

Papi, Gianni, Borgianni and Maíno: new discoveries, Artur Ramon Art, 2017, pp. 57 f.22.

D'Ors, E. Pérez D'Ors, P, Una nueva 'Adoración de los pastores' de Maíno, Ars magazine, 2017, pp. 62-71 [65].

Gayo, Mª Dolores; Jover de Celis, Maite, La preparación de los lienzos en la corte de Madrid: de Felipe IV a Felipe V, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXVIII, 2022, pp. 113-132 [126].

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 209.
ESCUELA TOLEDANA. [...] FRAY JUAN BAUTISTA MAYNO.[...] 209. La Adoracion de los pastores. / Lienzo. - Al. 3,14.- An. 1,75. - Fig. t. n. / Firmado, Mayno. / A la derecha está el Niño acostado sobre un lecho de espigas; S. José le besa una mano, y la Virgen le adora: un pastor llega ante el Niño con la gorra en la mano, conduciendo una cabra. En la parte inferior, y bajo el Niño, un pastor echado agarrando un cordero que viene a ofrecer: en la parte superior gloria con ángeles.

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 209.
209. / El nacimto de ntro señor Jesucristo y adoración de pastores en primer termino se ve una figª recostada con la mano derecha sobre un cordero y al lado un perro figª de tama (sic) natural y cuerpo entero y compº al n 204. / Autor Maino (sin firmar) / Alto 3,14; ancho 1,74 / / Forrado restº sin marco y colgado en la galeria pr.l / Nº 10 / E.P.

Inscriptions +

Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Scrap of paper. Frame, back, upper bar

SIT Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea
Printed label. Frame, back, upper bar

Caravaggio and his followers. Cleveland 30 Oct-2 jannuary 1972/ Cleveland. M of art TR 15758/ 41.3
Printed label. Stretcher

Caravaggio y el Naturalismo. Sevilla 73
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

El Toledo del Greco Pcio Velázquez Retiro Madrid/ Ministerio de Cultura
Scrap of paper. Frame, back

M.N.PRADO / M000337
Handwritten label. Frame, back, lower bar

M.N.PRADO/ 03227
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

Sala 24
Scrap of paper. Frame, back

Sello estampado. 337
Inscribed in pen and ink. Frame, back, lower bar

Villanueva y Geltrú
Inscribed with chalk. Stretcher

Huella dactilar
Front, right side

Huella dactilar
Front, left side

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno
28.09.2016 - 29.01.2017

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea
06.10.2005 - 15.01.2006

Location +

Room 007A (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Basketry: Cesto hondo, hecho con mimbre, que lleva el borde y el asa retorcidas.

Shawm: El pastor joven de la esquina inferior izquierda, tañe un aerófono de madera. Parece una chirimía ya que tiene tubo cónico, aunque no remata en campana, y la posición de los dedos del ejecutante indica la presencia de agujeros digitales. No se ve el tipo de embocadura, aunque parece de lengüeta por el esfuerzo en la insuflación del aire que se muestra en los carrillos hinchados del tañedor. La chirimía es un aerófono con embocadura de caña doble, tubo cónico de madera y agujeros digitales. Por su potente volumen sonoro es un instrumento propio para tocar al aire libre, de ahí su carácter pastoril. En Occidente, forma parte de los grupos de ministriles desde la Edad Media. Esta tipología se ha conservado en el ámbito popular en las dulzainas. Las chirimías son el antecedente directo del oboe moderno (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, U.C.M.).

Update date: 10-12-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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