• Christ Blessing

Christ Blessing

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Salvator mundi (Christ Blessing)
Famous Artist: Antonello da Messina
Oil painting on panel; Size: 38.7x29.8 cm; National Gallery, London.

The principal model of reference for Antonello's painting composition, highly unusual for Italian painting, seems to have been the central panel of Rogier van der Weyden Braque Triptych (Louvre, Paris) (Braque Family Triptych) representing Christ Giving His Blessing between Mourners. In fact the work of the Flemish painter was well known and widely imitated in Northern Europe, and there are many paintings derived from it that present similarities with Antonello's panel. However, there is one element that characterizes and differentiates the Sicilian painter's Salvator mundi from these northern works: the position of the blessing hand, represented with a very strong foreshortening that seems to project it out of the plane of the picture. Through this bold handling of perspective - also used for the Virgin Annunciate (Virgin of the Annunciation) in Palermo (Galleria Regionale della Sicilia) and the Madonna of the San Cassiano Altarpiece (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) - Antonello sought to bring observers into the painting and arouse their wonder at his ability to imitate reality. Even the scroll that bears the date and signature of the painter, a genuine trompe-l'ceil, responds to the same criteria of imitation of the real. Antonello seeks to deceive observers by inducing them to believe that the small sheet of paper with numerous folds has simply been stuck onto the painting rather than being part of it the inscription also gives the date, which has been read either as 1465 or 1475; recently the reading of it as 1475 has prevailed.

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