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Title The Infant Christ Asleep on the Cross
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Baker, Mary (British artist, active 18421860)
Murillo, Bartolomé Estebán (Spanish painter and draftsman, 1618-1682) After
Date Earliest about 1853
Date Latest about 1862
Signed yes

This painting is a reduced copy of Murillo's The Infant Christ Asleep on the Cross, in the City Art Galleries, Sheffield. It shows the Christ Child asleep on the cross, his arm resting on a skull lying beside him; both attributes allude to his forthcoming sacrifice and the two angels hovering above suggest his divine origins. Paintings of the Christ Child asleep were popular in mid-seventeenth century Spain.

Bartolomé Estebán Murillo was born in Seville, where he probably trained in the studio of Juan del Castillo (ca.1590-ca.1657). He received many commissions, working especially for the religious orders, but was also renowned as a portrait painter. He may have undertaken a journey to Madrid, where he could have met Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). He died after falling from the scaffolding in the Capuchin church in Cádiz, where he was painting the main altarpiece.

Current Accession Number DYCE.41
Inscription back 'Miss M. Baker'
Subject figure; religion (Christ Child)
Measurements 39.4 x 31.7 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce 1869.
Publications Dyce Collection catalogue, 1874, p. 5; Curtis, C.B., Velazquez and Murillo 1883, p. 181, no. 157; Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London, 1973, pp. 196-7, cat. no. 239.

This painting is a reduced copy after Murillo's The Infant Christ Asleep on the Cross (141 x 108 cm), dated 1670s and in the City Art Galleries, Sheffield; for which two related drawings exist: one in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg, the other in the Louvre, Paris. The painting depicts the child Christ asleep on the cross, his arm resting on a skull lying beside him, with his naked body half hidden by a blue mantle, while two angels, hidden by clouds, watch over him. In the background, on the right-hand side, is a mountain, with a city at its foot, probably the city of Jerusalem under the Mount of Olives. The landscape, as well as the skull and the cross, thus allude to the forthcoming sacrifice of Christ.

This work is inscribed on the back with Miss M Baker, probably refering to Mary Baker, a painter who exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists from 1842 to 1860. The loose brushwork and the earthy palette differ significantly from the original, which is dominated by a bluish tonality and cool palette, and is executed with vibrant brushstrokes. In this picture, Murillo makes an interesting use of light, bathing his composition in an intense chiaroscuro, which is further enhanced by the contrast with the body of the Child and those of the angels above him. However, the copyist did not reproduce Murillo's dramatic effect of light, using earthy and smoother pigments, typical of the nineteenth-century.

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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