The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Bust of the Young Christ
  • Florentine School
  • Bust of the Young Christ
  • Florence, Italy
  • late 15th century
  • Bust
  • Moulded stucco, painted. Made in two sections, head and bust, joined at the neck. Front and sides of bust moulded together, with back section added to close the bust.
  • Height: 37.7 cm
    Width: 34.4 cm
    Depth: 19.8 cm
  • S54
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Similar busts of the Young Christ, or the young St John the Baptist, were produced widely in Florence during the 15th century, and many survive. Although great sculptors often carved these subjects in marble, numerous were made in humbler materials like terracotta and stucco and served as private devotional objects. They are well-documented in Florentine domestic interiors of the time as tri-dimensional depictions of holy figures were believed to have a virtuous and pious essence, capable of influencing those in their presence. Figures of the infant Christ and of St John the Baptist (patron saint of Florence) were considered especially helpful in forming a virtuous nature in young boys and therefore they were often paired.

    Our bust closely follows one of the oldest documented examples, the bust in painted terracotta from the church of the Misericordia in Florence, paired with a St John. In our bust some elements are simplified, mostly in the treatment of the hair, tunic and drapery. Most of the painted decoration has been removed (seemingly intentionally) from our bust, but traces are still visible on the back, where the colour of the tunic, red with gilded border, once again replicates the Misericordia model.

    S54 has often been linked to a bust of the infant St John the Baptist which had been in the Bideford Church and in the 1860s had been considered by the V&A for acquisition. Both ours and the Bideford bust, inscribed “Donatello” at the back, have been variously attributed to Antonio Rossellino (1427-1479), Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) and others. Today the closest comparison seems to be with early works of Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525), although these models were so popular that it is likely that they were produced in more than one workshop.