A rare discovery, this painting is as delicate as it is powerful. Originally intended for private devotion, Metsys’ execution is exquisitely detailed, depicting a figure of Christ that inspires quiet introspection. Metsys’ innovation and brilliance are evident in the naturalistic rendering of Christ’s proper left palm and thumb, illuminated from below by a golden hue (perhaps by the light of a candle placed in front of the painting), bringing this divine figure closer to the beholder’s space. The intricate details on the paint surface are miraculously well-preserved, including the fine ‘beaded’ strokes that form each one of the eyelashes.
Until its rediscovery in 2006, the painting hung quietly and unrecognised on a side wall in the Holy Trinity Church in Bradford-on-Avon. It soon achieved universal acceptance as the primary version of one of Metsys’ most repeated compositions. A key piece in Metsys’ oeuvre, and in the history of painting in Antwerp, its importance cannot be understated.
(Leuven 1466–1530 Antwerp)
oil and mordant gilding on panel
37.6 x 30.4 cm. (13 3/4 x 12 in.)