Cristo benedicente (c.1465)

Antonello da Messina (c.1430-1479)

Cristo benedicente (Christ Blessing)
Oil on wood, 38.7 x 29.8 cm
National GalleryLondon

Christ blesses the viewer with his right hand. Antonello has altered the original position of the fingers and hand, foreshortening them – that is, compressing their real length – so that they appear to be projecting out of the picture. If you look closely, you can see the outlines of their initial position, now visible because the paint has thinned over time.

This type of image of Christ is based upon Netherlandish pictures that became popular as focuses for prayer in the fifteenth century. The head-on view is based upon the imprint of Christ’s face which, according to legend, he left on the handkerchief of Saint Veronica as he approached the site of the Crucifixion. Antonello uses layers of oil paint glazes to show a range of textures, painting Christ’s image as vividly as if it were a portrait. (NG)