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Patron of the Arts-The Catholic Church: The Adoration of The Shepherds

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Carved, estofado, and painted wood
New Spain
Eighteenth century
197 x 105 x 15 cm

This bas-relief sculpture portrays important images from the Catholic Church. It is carved in wood with the features and details shown in paint.


This wood carving would have been used as an altar piece in the Catholic Church and was probably paired with another relief of the wedding of Mary and Joseph to make a large presentation.

Technique or Process

This bas-relief sculpture was carved on a large panel of wood. It shows the figure of Mary in the center with the baby Jesus and around her are Joseph and the shepherds under a canopylike curtain. Angels fly overhead. There are eight figures in this shallow carved piece plus doves and cattle and sheep making a very full composition and suggesting considerable depth. Paint has been applied to the wood to show the details of clothing and features.

Cultural Roots

The Catholic Religion was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards when they conquered the country. While wood carving was an art that was a part of the native culture it is put to work here in this piece in the service of the Catholic Church.

Lesson Plans
Visual Arts Lesson: Bas-relief modeling in salt ceramics of self with animal.
Extension Activities

Math: Print out a copy of this piece (black and white copy is fine) and draw a grid to divide it into twenty equal sized squares. Number the squares from 1-20. Make a chart in which you describe what appears in each square. What percentage of the squares show people? What percentage show animals, etc?

Language Arts: Write an essay about someone who means a great deal to you. Describe this person's physical appearance and all the personal qualities of this person that you admire.

Social Studies: Research the changing religious history of Mexico. What type of religion existed before the Spanish came to the country. How did it vary within the country? How did this change after the Spanish invaded?

Determine which types of trees grow in the climate and location where this work of art was produced. Research to determine what type of tree the wood used in this work came from.



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