MANTEGNA, Andrea
(b. 1431, Isola di Carturo, d. 1506, Mantova)

The Infant Redeemer

1485-95
Tempera on unprepared canvas, 70 x 35 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This is the equivalent in painting of the devotional statues of the Child Jesus, used mainly in the Franciscan ritual. The Christ Child is depicted as Imperator Mundi (Ruler of the World), his right hand raised in blessing. In his left hand he holds a wand on which there is a cross; this wand is at once a regal sceptre and a symbol of the Passion to come.

The picture was presumably hung over a doorway so that Christ gave a blessing to all those coming in and going out.