Christ is here standing on a pedestal in the guise of a chubby child, thus emphasizing his dual nature. The total nudity of the child refers to his human nature; while the gesture of blessing with his right hand and the globe in his left hand recall his divine nature of Savior of the world: he is Salvator Mundi. Note that our coin has its globe topped by its original cross.
The production of images of the Infant Jesus is frequent around 1500 and echoes new, more intimate forms of devotion. These kinds of representations were used for meditation and prayer of the faithful in the private sphere. Appreciated by the laity and in convents, this kind of doll could be manipulated, dressed and styled according to fashion, desires and celebrations. On our piece, the two forearms were removable to facilitate the handling and the dressing of the baby. Note also the small holes on the top of the Child’s skull which allowed the insertion of paper maché caps and a halo. On later dolls, the hair was carved directly into the wood and sometimes gilded with gold leaf.
Several centers of production of this kind of images were active in Europe, we can mention central Italy (especially Tuscany and Umbria from the end of the fourteenth century), Spain and Portugal (although later) as well as the dolls of Malines (Mechelen in present Belgium). The latter, being mass-produced in the 15th and 16th centuries for popular devotion, are recognized as being of lesser quality than their Italian cousins.
Our piece, in an excellent state of conservation, is an Italian production. Without any trace of restoration and realized in a walnut wood; its still visible polychromy, in particular on the face of the toddler with its red cheeks, confers him a realistic and touching aspect.

Blessing Child Jesus – Carved, painted and gilded wood – Italy – 16th Century

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