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Saint Christopher, Flemish Around 1480 - 1500
Saint Christopher, Flemish Around 1480 - 1500 - Sculpture Style
Ref : 112140
12 800 €
Period :
11th to 15th century
Provenance :
Dimensions :
H. 14.96 inch
Sculpture  - Saint Christopher, Flemish Around 1480 - 1500
Kolhammer & Mahringer Fine Arts

Specialised with sculptures and old master paintings

+43 676 4128888
Saint Christopher, Flemish Around 1480 - 1500

Saint Christopher
Around 1480 - 1500

Oak wood carved
Remains of the original polychromy
Height 38 cm

This high-quality figurine shows St. Christopher wading through the raging river with the Christ Child on his shoulders. He looks up at the child enthroned on his left shoulder. With his left hand, he originally leaned on his staff; with his right, he grasped the luxuriant cloak to protect it from the water.

There are numerous legends surrounding St. Christopher. While the first depictions of the Christ bearer in the Alpine region date from the second half of the 12th century, the actual legend of Christ the Bearer did not appear until the 13th century in the Legenda Aurea. Christophorus was commissioned by a hermit to carry people on his back across a dangerous river. One night he heard the voice of a child calling three times. As he carried the child across the river, his burden became heavier and heavier and the water began to swell. He was almost afraid of drowning because he thought that the whole world was on his shoulders. The child finally dipped him under water and baptized him, whereupon Christopher recognized him as his Lord, Jesus Christ. This saint was particularly popular in the late Gothic period.

The sculpture is characterized by an extraordinarily dynamic turning movement of the saint: With his right foot propped up as a free leg on a protruding rock and his left firmly anchored in the riverbed, he braves the deep waters, which is made clear to the viewer by the lifting of his cloak. Nevertheless, the saint’s gaze is not directed forwards on the path, but is raptly fixed on the Christ child. It is sitting in a jaunty pose with its knees drawn up on his shoulder, presumably originally raising its right arm in a gesture of speech and blessing, and holding the globe with its left hand, which is balanced on its left knee. It gazes into the distance with a gentle smile. It is highly probable that the narrative moment in which the child reveals himself to the saint as Jesus Christ is depicted here. Christophorus recognizes his true identity and pauses in his movement. This kind of contact and dialogue testifies to a special intimacy in the communication between Christ and Christophorus.

The execution of the figure in the characteristic late Gothic style emphasizes this pause, namely in the curls swirling around the head under the turban-like headdress of Christophorus and his finely carved beard as well as in the complex, voluminous folds of the heavy cloak. The cloak is wrapped around the body in deep, diagonal folds and almost threatens to slip off the body if the saint did not hold the fabric with one hand. At the same time, the fabric wraps around the flared knee of the play leg, creating a compositional diagonal from the Christ Child down to the knee and thus enlivening the twisted posture of the group of figures.

The composition of this type of depiction is related to English alabaster statuettes and reliefs of the 15. and early 16th century (e.g. in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. A.18-1921, A.2-1912, A.20-1946, A.21-1946). In its execution, however, the figure is clearly indebted to Flemish sculpture from around 1500, whereby this is expressed not only in the type of wood, but also in the splendor of the curls, the physiognomy of the face and the drapery of the robe (cf. e.g. V&A, London, inv. no. 374-1890; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, inv. no. 61.53).

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