In most early impressions of this large night piece Rembrandt aimed for a very pronounced contrast between the aureole, surrounding the Angel and the putti in the sky and the light it casts onto the ground, the trees and the startled shepherds and their herd, by wiping the plate very clean, so that the blank areas would be left bright white. The present impression however is printed with considerable plate tone, resulting in a more sombre and mysterious image. The celestial apparition, as it emerges out of the night sky, takes on a slightly threatening, uncanny aspect, which makes us all the better understand the terror of the herdsmen and their animals.
The dimly lit landscape, with some figures surrounding a campfire faintly reflected in the river at lower left, an arched bridge and a hill town in the far distance, prints very well in the present impression. Relying on fine gradations of shades of black and grey to be intelligible, the landscape loses all definition in later examples and ultimately disappears entirely. Here, it is still full of atmosphere and depth.