The Adoration of the Shepherds
This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. The painting is part of a series of four works by the Italian artist Preti of Christ’s life, all of which are in the Walker’s collection. In 1829 they were given to the Liverpool Royal Institution by a group of donors, several of whom, including the Yates brothers and John Gladstone, had amassed wealth through the transatlantic slave trade. The donors were John Ashton Yates (1781 - 1863), Joseph Brooks Yates (1780 - 1855), John Gladstone (1764 - 1851), Arthur Heywood (1826 - about 1901), John Philips RN (1791 - 1835), John William Gibson (dates unknown), Thomas Winstanley (1768 - 1845), Samuel Winstanley (about 1800 - 1857), Nathaniel George Philips (1795 - 1831), George Drinkwater (1780 - 1850) and George Henderson (possibly about 1816 - 1850). Drinkwater's grandfather, also called George, was a broker who had advertised 11 enslaved African people for sale in a Liverpool coffee house in 1766. The artist Mattia Preti (1613 - 1699), was Italian and worked in Italy and Malta. Earlier in their history the four paintings came from a Neapolitan nobleman’s collection. Despite its large size, this depiction of the birth of Jesus has a strong sense of intimacy. Preti has combined the everyday with the divine. The ideal, classical beauty of the young Virgin is contrasted with elements of realism, such as Joseph’s weathered face and the battered interior of the stable. This image would have been relatable to poorer people in the 17th century. At the time, it was popular to combine devotional images with believable humanity.