The Adoration of the Shepherds is one of El Greco's masterpieces and is datable to the last years of his life: Luis Trista, El Greco's assistant in 1603-07, claimed to have seen him still working on the picture in 1618. The artist had painted it for his own sepulchral monument, following his acquisition of a family chapel in the Toledan church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The architectural frame of gilded wood is original and was designed by the painter himself.
The composition is still influenced by the work of Bassano, from whose Adoration he also took the idea of the nocturne illuminated from below by the figure of the Infant Jesus, with the figures in the foreground lit from behind, but El Greco's reinterpretation places greater emphasis on the expression of emotions and the eloquence of the gestures. He makes remarkable use of the light, which moves between the figures, lending depth to the picture. In spite of the nighttime setting the colors are brilliant, and the reddish-orange clothing of the kneeling shepherd and the yellow of St. Joseph's drapery stand out.
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