This work depicts a shepherd reclining in the moonlight, his sheep standing in the foreground.

Though sleeping shepherds appear earlier in his art, they were employed merely as staffage. This drawing is the first occasion that Palmer treats this motif as the central theme of the composition. A deeply religious man, Palmer employs the motif in a dual way; the shepherd bears specific Christian connotations but also represents a symbol of the pastoral and rural life as described in Virgil's books. Fascinated by the Miltonian belief that the natural world might be a reflection of the divine, Palmer here gives it visual expression with the lace-like fronds of the trees encircling the heavenly moon. This painting is a product of the artist's so called visionary years (1825-1832) and has been described as 'among Palmer's most poetic works'.


Richard Redgrave; Sotheby's 1932; Henry Reitlinger; Sotheby's 1954.

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