Domenico Fetti (artist)|
Italian, 1589 - 1623
The Veil of Veronica, c. 1618/1622
oil on panel
overall (original panel): 80.6 x 66.3 cm (31 3/4 x 26 1/8 in.) overall (with non-original wood strips): 82.5 x 68 cm (32 1/2 x 26 3/4 in.) framed: 100.7 x 86.4 cm (39 5/8 x 34 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 3 of 6
One of the four principal relics of the Passion preserved in Saint Peter’s in Rome is a cloth miraculously imprinted with the image of Christ’s face. According to legend, conflated from several different sources in the Middle Ages, Veronica handed the cloth to Christ as he struggled under the weight of the cross along the tortuous route to Calvary. After he used the cloth to wipe his brow the image of his face remained. Veronica’s name is often, and probably incorrectly, regarded as being derived from the words vera icon, or “true icon”; more likely it stems from a related eastern Christian tradition about a woman named Berenike.
It is possible that Fetti saw the actual veil when it was installed in the crossing of Saint Peter’s in 1606. He would certainly have been familiar with other paintings of it. Its popularity for painters was due not only to its powerful spiritual impact—Christ’s suffering face, seen isolated from any reference to worldly surroundings, focuses the meditative concentration of the viewer—but also because it seems to have been the first indulgenced image. That is, an indulgence was gained by reciting the proper prayers either in front of the relic itself—or in front of an image of it. (An indulgence is a remission of temporal punishment due for sin.) Painters continued to represent Veronica’s veil, even after the pope prohibited such images in 1616.
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