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German, Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Christ

Key facts
Full title Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Christ
Artist German
Date made 17th century
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 9.8 × 13.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG2156
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Christopher carrying the Infant Christ

This small picture is painted on a copper plate. This was particularly popular as a support with the German artist Adam Elsheimer, whose love of dynamic draperies and bright colours clearly had an impact on the painter of this work.

The infant Christ is lowered gently to rest against a regal orb by Saint Christopher. According to legend, Christopher was a giant who wanted to become a Christian but found himself unable to pray or fast. A hermit (possibly the figure to the left here) told him to use his height to help travellers cross a deep river; a group of them wait on the opposite bank. One day he carried a small but improbably heavy child across the river. It was Christ, who told Christopher that by carrying him he had also been carrying the ‘weight of the world’. He then told him to go and be baptised ‘Christopher’, meaning ‘bearer of Christ’.

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