Giovanni Battista Castello treated the subject of the Adoration of the Shepherds frequently throughout his career. In the present lot, however, the composition is derived from a celebrated design by Taddeo Zuccaro known through an engraving by Cornelis Cort of 1567. In this drawing, Castello filters the Roman master's design through his own Genoese, miniaturist sensibilities, adapting the monochromatic rendering of the engraving into the richly colorful medium of gouache. The date of 1567 found on Cort's engraving provides a terminus ante quem for this drawing, and suggests that this is a relatively early work by Castello. Like most of his gouaches, the present lot was produced as an autonomous work of art intended for private devotion.
The elaborate ebony frame of this lot is most likely to have been designed by the artist specifically for the piece, as several other gouaches by Castello are framed in this manner. These include an Adoration of the Shepherds and a reliquary incorporating a Crucifixion and Saints, both today in Genoese private collections (Clario Di Fabio, Gio. Battista Castello 'Il Genovese': Miniatura e devozione a Genova fra Cinque e Seicento, exhibition catalogue, Genoa, 1990, p. 31, illustrated in color p. 73 and pp. 40-41, illustrated in color p. 80, respectively.) It has been suggested that Castello's early training as a goldsmith allowed him to design and produce these often complicated architectural frames.
We are grateful to Stephen Ongpin for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.