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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Holy Family with a Shepherd is a painting that was done by Titian in c. 1510. The painting is currently exhibited in the National Gallery, London.

Previously, the Holy Family with a Shepherd was attributed to Paris Bordone. Due to the painting's colouring similarities to the Balbi Holy Conversation, a painting of c. 1516, the painting has been dated to around 1516. There is also a dating of c. 1510 that is based on this painting's similarity in the figure of Saint Joseph to the figure of Saint Mark Enthroned. These dates are more widely accepted. The 1510 date shows that Titan still under the strong influences of Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione.

The piece of work was first recorded in the Palazzo Borghese collection in Rome in 1693 and it remained in there throughout the 19th century. It is assumed that this painting was seen by Anthony Van Dyck who is an artist who produced a drawing that was a copy of the original piece. The painting of the Holy Family with a Shepherd passed through some other private collections. William Holwell Carr bequeathed the painting to the National Gallery in 1831.

The Holy Family with a Shepherd by Titian is a variation of the Adoration of the Shepherds that is well-described in the Bible in Luke 2:19. According to analysts, the Holy family is seen at the centre of the painting while the Annunciation made to the shepherds by the angel, it is clearly seen in the background specifically on the right. The analysis of the pigment reveals Titian's elaborate painting style and an extensive palette that is typical of the Renaissance period.

The painting has a medium of oil and a size of 99.1 x 139.1 cm. The style Titan used is High Renaissance. The painting is found on the religious painting genre and has a tag of Christianity, Holy Family. The original painting is stored in the National Gallery in London. This painting has become one of the most popular themes in most Venetian paintings. Titian had completed his art work by his early 20's. In this painting, only one shepherd is shown and he is adoration while the other shepherds can be seen in a distance on the right side. They are painted in a way as if they are hearing the Good News as they are busy tending their sheep by daylight in the fields.

In a way, Titian has used the painting to tell the world about the Good News of the Incarnation that comes to people individually or as a group. The painting has a string message that is passed by Titan and people interpret it in different ways. This is one of Titan's great works of Christianity since it shows the aspect of adoration in a deeply amazing way and it is celebrated in different ways. The painting shows how Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione greatly influenced the work of Titan.