This fine amber sculpture depicting Jesus Christ is a very rare object. Exemples of this sort can only be found in Germanic countries.
Already used during Prehistoric times, amber have always fascinated people. Because of the virtues associated with this material amber was carved as amulets and prophylactic ornaments. As an expression of luxury and means amber was also used for adornments and small figures collected by the upper classes.
This fossilized resin was picked on the Baltic Sea shores and soon entered a intense trade system.
From the 14th century onwards knights of the Teutonic Order held monopoly on the precious and appealing material. As having won control over Baltic territory and Prussia they quickly understood the economic interest this resin could represent and established an exploitation and trade circuit. The whole production was kept within Lochstadt fortress, Samland, and then distributed to amber-turners. The first amber-turner’s guilds appeared in Bruges and Lübeck in the early 14th century. Rosaries and other religious objects were made and sent away to meet the growing demand. The finest pieces acted as official gifts from masters of the Teutonic Order to foreign leaders.
In Northern Germany the esteemed amber became a symbol of power.
During the 15th century the Teutonic Order faced a decline leading to the surrender of their rights over exploitation in Poland where new production centre then appeared. Amber’s use changed from religious to secular objects. Amber pendants, plates, cups and other refined objects appeared as well as cabinets completely adorned with amber in the most elegant European courts.
This Christ was undoubtedly ordered after models from the mid-12th century.
It shows indeed every characteristics from this period. Assuming a particularly hieratic position Jesus Christ’s body is perfectly straight. His legs are parallel, the feet are presented side by side and the long and pleated perizonium uncovers the knees. Tied on the left hip, the perizonium is fastened by a rope and is enriched by geometrical motifs on the lower side. The arms of Jesus are wide extended with the open palms pierced by nails. The thumb is joined with the other fingers as on 12th century depictions of Christ.
The stylized anatomy echoes Byzantine models. His chest is marked by strong pectorals and a bulging diaphragme.
The elegant beard is finely carved through small slits on the surface. The long hair frames his noble face and falls down in the back. The face is soft and serene. No tension nor expression of pain affect the face. The cabochons studded crown and his almond shaped open eyes highlight the resurrection and glory of the Saviour more than the suffering of the martyr.
The artist who authored this amber sculpture has rigorously used 12th century Romanesque rules of sculpture while expressing his own talent and diligence.
Camille COPPINGER, Ambre, mémoire du temps, Edition Thalia, Italie, 2009
Paul THOBY, Le Crucifix des Origines au Concile de Trente, Bellanger, Nantes, 1959