National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of A Little Boy Desiderio da Settignano (artist)
Florentine, c. 1429 - 1464
A Little Boy, 1455/1460
overall: 26.3 x 24.7 x 15 cm (10 3/8 x 9 3/4 x 5 7/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
On View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 1 of 8

This bust of an infant, without any attributes to identify him as a religious figure, may have been created as a portrait of an actual child. Carved of pure white marble, it presents its young subject with a solemn but relaxed expression. The eyes, with uncarved irises and pupils, possess a timeless, classical character, while the slight asymmetry and skillful handling of the marble create a sense of life and movement. The deeply cut mouth falls open. Soft wisps of hair fall loosely over the ears and forehead. The sensitive carving of the stone to convey the resilience of young flesh and the silky texture of a child's hair is characteristic of Desiderio's best work.

Desiderio was born in the quarry town of Settignano, where his father was a stone cutter. Perhaps trained in the Florentine studio of Bernardo Rossellino, Desiderio had established himself as an independent master in that city by 1453. His work, like that of the Rossellino brothers Antonio and Bernardo, filled a vigorous demand for portraits, religious images, and church furnishings. During his short career, Desiderio was celebrated for his skill in creating marble busts of women and young children.

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