National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Christ Child (?) Desiderio da Settignano (artist)
Florentine, c. 1429 - 1464
The Christ Child (?), c. 1460
marble
overall: 30.5 x 26.5 x 16.3 cm (12 x 10 7/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1943.4.94
Not on View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 2 of 8

In contrast to the wide-eyed innocence of A Little Boy, also by Desiderio, this bust shows an alert, impish child eager to interact with his world. His thick hair flows in flamelike waving tufts. The irises and pupils of his eyes are carved as if to sparkle. With his chin tucked under and his lips pressed together, this holy child seems barely able to control his smile.

From sometime before 1756 until 1940, this bust was installed above a doorway next to the high altar in the Oratory of San Francesco of the Vanchettoni in Florence. Antonio Rossellino's Young Saint John the Baptist of about 1470, was displayed above an opposite door. The backs of both busts were flattened so that they could be attached to the wall. Each had a small hole drilled in the crown of its head to hold a metal halo. This evidence suggests that Desiderio's boy was intended to be an image of the Christ child. It is equally possible that the bust originated as a portrait of a Florentine child and was given sacred identity at a later date.

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