The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerrit van Honthorst is one of the biggest crowd-pleasers in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum – and not only at Christmas time. The Dutch master’s intimate view of the Nativity is unique, making it one of the most fascinating adoration scenes in art history.
Thanks to an extensive restoration supported by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the provision of a new oak wood frame based on historical models, the painting now shines forth in new glory: brighter, more colorful and even bigger! Surprisingly, the work of the restorers revealed that after an initial completion Honthorst subsequently enlarged the canvas in the upper part, providing the scene with more air; this had remained hidden as a result of the added strip being folded back in the 1940s. The re-creation of the original format was not an easy task because the blue-striped canvas had been relined and, in order to align the canvas strip on the reverse of the top edge with the rest of the image, the painting had first to be detached from its stretcher. Gradually it was flattened out, partly by using clamping plates to tauten the canvas. The holes made by the nails that were hammered through the canvas and paint layer when the canvas was folded were repaired with tiny patches on the reverse.