Sir Joshua Reynolds (d. 1792) was elected in 1768 as first President of King George IIIs Royal Academy, whose annual exhibitions served to encourage the Art of Painting, establish a national school of design, and provide charity for impoverished artists and their families. Reynolds delivered the first of his celebrated Academy 'Discourses' in 1769. In 1773 Reynolds received a doctorate from Oxford, and the University encouraged his promotion of the Art of 'History' Painting by providing a commission in 1773 for the embellishment of New College's ancient chapel with a West window depicting The Nativity.
Reynolds' 'Adoration of the Shepherds', conceived in the manner of Correggio's Notte, is accompanied by emblematical figures of the Cardinal and Christian Virtues focused round a figure of 'Charity'. While he had been commissioned to produce drawings for paintings that were to be executed on glass in the innovatory technique introduced by the artist Thomas Jervais (or Jarvis). Reynolds also produced finished oil paintings. The latter were exhibited in part at the Royal Academy between 1779 and 1781; while Jervais's glass paintings of the Virtues were exhibited at Cockspur Street in 1780, and then shown together with The Nativity at Pall Mall, before being taken to New College in 1783. Richard Earlom engraved Reynolds' New College window in 1785 (N. Penny, et al., Reynolds, 1986, pp. 31-32, nos. 119 and 120 and fig 18). This frame's triumphal-arched pattern relates to that of the window, but the side 'lights' or arcades have been raised (see lot 268)