About the Christ child are a pinwheel of limbs formed by the leg of the kneeling shepherd, Marys raised arm, the woman in the hats arm, and then the shepherds arm. The baby is in the center of a maelstrom of converging arcs.
The painting above is by Gerit Von Honthorst, who lived at the same time as Rembrandt but was a few years his senior. Honthorst was a wildly successful artist and studied in Rome to learn the Carravagiast style. That is, he painted scenes using the chiaroscuro style of Caravagio. Rembrandt too was a follower of that style but became so unique that the label was to small to fit him.
I think the darks scattered about this painting are less well designed than those or the Rubens above or that Rembrandt from the other day. The same illuminated by a baby against a dark field ploy goes on in all of these pictures and Gerit isn't quite as good at it. Squint at the picture and notice the following slightly clunky little darks.
- The dark behind the praying shepherd on the lefts hands.
- The dark below the chin of the cow
- and the dark shape to the right of Marys head.
Above is a Bernardo Strozzi who was born just a little before Rembrandt is playing the same theme too, with the illuminated shapes set against the darkness. Marys gesture is lovely and there is a silvery cast to this painting that is a little different than the golden glow of the dutch paintings we have been seeing. Squint way down on this one and see what fine shapes Strozzi has made. The radiating spoke like shapes formed by the draperies supporting Christ work really well. The two vertical staffs on either side of Mary are a great counter to all of the ovoid shapes in there. Thats a neat design idea too.