Attributed to Juan Niño de Guevara
(Malaga, around 1635 - 1698)
Sleeping Infant Jesus
Oil on panel. Same period frame.
36.5 x 34 cm; 60 x 60 cm (frame).
An idealized natural landscape serves as an idyllic setting for the placidity that the figure of the Child Jesus gives off, asleep despite the noise created by the little fountain that flows water next to him. a cloak hanging from some branches serves as a canopy in this humble bed, the child lying on some white cloths and with some pillows raising his head. Asleep, he appears naked, with that source as the only element of noise.
Christian art was delighted throughout its history, and especially in the Modern Age, casting the shadow of the cross on the innocent childhood of Jesus. The contrast between the happy nonchalance of a child and the horror of the sacrifice to which he was predestined was designed to move hearts. This idea was already familiar to theologians of the Middle Ages, but the artists of that time expressed it discreetly, either through the concerned expression of the Virgin, or through the bunch of grapes that the Child squeezes in his hands. It will be especially in the art of the Counter-Reformation where that funeral presentiment of the Passion is expressed through transparent allusions. Zurbarán shows the Child Jesus pricking himself with his finger while braiding a crown of thorns. Murillo, to the little Saint John the Baptist who shows him his cross made of reeds. Finally, the theme finds its most moving expression in the theme of the Sleeping Child Jesus on a cross.