The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Object Details


The Adoration of the Shepherds


Sebastiano Conca (Italian (Neapolitan), 1680 - 1764)


Italian (Neapolitan)


Naples, Campania, Italy (Place Created)




Oil on canvas

Object Number:



243.8 × 264.2 cm (96 × 104 in.)

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Object Description

Mary's beatifically idealized face reflects the heavenly light emanating from the glowing baby Jesus. Attractive young women coo over the infant, an old man whispers to a bare-chested shepherd cradling a sheep at the far left, and two birds rest contentedly at the foot of the rustic manger. Though on the earthly plane, a young boy holding a dove and shading his eyes in the foreground seems more like a sibling to the heavenly putti holding a scroll and a censer over the newborn Christ.

The young Sebastiano Conca successfully blended this Baroque wealth of activity with a symmetrical, classicizing composition centered on the manger. Despite the painting's expansive scale, his brilliant handling lends a cool sweetness that points toward the Rococo style.

Conca painted this picture for Rome's most adventurous patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. He may also have used this painting as a model for an altar frontal, a pillow-like plaque decoration.

about 1720 - 1740

Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, 1667 - 1740 (Rome, Italy), commissioned from the artist, about 1720.
Source: 1981 Gaeta exhibition records documents of payment in 1720; recorded in posthumous inventory.

by 1949 -

Private Collection (Rome, Italy)

- 1972

Werner Schmitz (Thun (Thoune), Switzerland) [sold, Schmitz sale, Christie's, London, July 7, 1972, lot 65, to J. Paul Getty.]

1972 - 1976

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.


Inventarium bonorum [...] Cardinalis Petri Ottoboni [...] Die quinta Marti' 1740 (Rome: Archivio di Stato, Tribunale dell'A.C. A.A. de Caesaris, 1740), fol. 645 (protocollo 1838).

Dominici, Bernardo de. Vite de' Pittori, Scultori, ed Architetti Napoletani. 3 vols. (Naples: 1742), vol. 3, p. 665.

Clark, Anthony M. "Sebastiano Conca and the Roman Rococo." Apollo 85 (May 1967), p. 333n6.

Schleier, Erich. "'Die Anbetung der Könige' von Giuseppe Chiari." Berliner Museen 23 (1973), pp. 66-67, fig. 13.

Schleier, Erich. “Una Decorazione Poco Nota di Sebastiano Conca a Genova.” Antichita Viva 19, no. 3 (1980), pp. 24, 26n20.

Clark, Anthony Morris. Studies in Roman Eighteenth-Century Painting (Washington, D.C.: Decatur House Press, 1981), pp. 6n6, 8.

Spinosa, Nicola, ed. Sebastiano Conca (1680-1764), exh. cat. (Gaeta: Palazzo de Vio, 1981), pp. 26, 94, no. 5, ill.; p. 388, no. 4.

Olszewski, Edward J. "Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) in America." Journal of the History of Collections 1, no. 1 (1989), pp. 49-50, fig. 20.

Mattiti, Flavia. "Il cardinale Pietro Ottoboni mecenate delle arti: cornache e documenti, 1689-1740." Storia dell'Arte 84 (1995), pp. 160, 220-21.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 27, ill.

Olszewski, Edward J. "The Painters in Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni's Court of the Cancelleria, 1689-1740." Römisches Jahrbuch der Bibliotheca Hertziana 32 (1997/98), pp. 561-62, fig. 27.

Olszewski, Edward J. "Liturgical Silver Commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740)." Cleveland Studies in the History of Art 8 (2003), pp. 108-9, fig. 14.

Olszewski, Edward J. The Inventory of Paintings of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) (New York: Peter Lang, 2004), pp. 27-30, 67, 114-15, 313, fig. 29.

Huchet de Quénetain, Christophe, and Moana Weil-Curiel. “An Inventory of the Art Collection of Etienne-Nicolas Dutartre de Bourdonné, 1782.” The Burlington Magazine 162, no. 1406 (May 2020), pp. 396 (under no. 34), 399, fig. 9.