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Cavallino worked in Naples where he was not well known during his lifetime, but was alert to the work of contemporaries whose innovations he transformed with extraordinary delicacy and charm. The adoration of the shepherds is a traditional subject, but here Cavallino shows it in a new light. The focus is on Mary, indicating that she alone is aware of the angels who flutter above with ribbons proclaiming Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest). Joseph and the shepherds stolidly regard the child, but the sweetness of Mary's expression simultaneously reveals her love, pride, and humility.

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