Adoration of the Shepherds, ca. 1650-55
Oil on canvas.
Soprani, the early biographer of the Genoese painters, wrote that the young Piola was so taken with Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione that he learned to imitate his style. In this painting, the setting with a broken column, symbolic of the Synagogue, the rather bacchanalian shepherd and still-life motifs, and the fluid rhythm leading toward the radiant Child are virtual quotations from Castigione’s celebrated altarpiece in the church of San Luca, Genoa. A fine oil sketch by the artist is on another wall in this gallery. It is the slacker drawing, difficulty with space – as in the interval between the boys and the Virgin – and impatient execution in the background that identify it as a very early work by Piola.