Unterberger is thought to have painted Adoration of the Shepherds, a small-format work on canvas, in around 1750, during his Viennese period – as confirmed by the inscription on the back of Adoration of the Magi (NG S 3385), a pendant to this work.
According to the Bible story, Joseph and the pregnant Mary travelled to Bethlehem, where they were unable to find lodging. Eventually they found shelter in a stable, where Mary gave birth and placed the child in a manger. Before the arrival of the Magi, three shepherds who had been watching their flocks nearby came to bow to the infant Jesus, after an angel had given them the glad tidings of his birth (Luke 2, 8–21). Unterberger deliberately gave the miniature scene an intimate atmosphere. The newborn child and his mother are eliminated by a warm light, with the shepherds gathered around them as though at a warm hearth offering them comfort on a cold winter’s night. The vivid colours and charm of the scene are characteristics the artist had encountered in the Venetian works of Nicola Grassi (1682–1748) and Francesco Fontebasso (1707–1769).
The small format suggests that the work was intended for private devotions.
Donated by: dr. Zora Janžekovič (1918−2015), Maribor, 2010