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Christ Blessing
Benedetto Diana

Immediately identifiable by his long hair, beard and gesture of blessing, this kind of small close-up ‘portrait’ of Christ was hugely popular as an object of private devotion in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Such portraits were produced in a number of painters' workshops both north and south of the Alps.

This way of showing Christ was immediately derived from Netherlandish painting, but ultimately harks back to miraculous images of the Holy Face, such as the veil of Saint Veronica and the Mandylion of Edessa. In the Renaissance these were thought not to have been made by human hands and so were seen as the ultimate truthful likenesses of God incarnate.

Diana has painted Christ’s left hand resting on the parapet’s edge and his right arm reaching over it, making us feel that Christ shares our space – and making him more immediately accessible to the Renaissance worshipper.

Key facts
Artist Benedetto Diana
Artist dates active 1482; died 1525
Full title Christ Blessing
Date made probably about 1510-20
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 76.2 x 59.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Claude Phillips in memory of his sister Eugénie, 1910
Inventory number NG2725
Location in Gallery Not on display
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