This marble relief has recently been attributed to the Venetian sculptor Tullio Lombardo. Tullio was well versed in both ancient art and the work of contemporary artists outside Venice, such as Mantegna and Leonardo da Vinci. As the prime Venetian sculptor of the High Renaissance, he received the lion’s share of monumental commissions of the day, including the tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin in the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, and the Cappella dell’Arca di Sant’Antonio in the basilica (the Santo) of Padua. Beyond the Veneto region his work is rare. The figure of Adam from the Vendramin tomb (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) is his only securely documented work in America.
Christ the Redeemer is sculpted in mezzo rilievo (literally “half-relief”). The virtuosity of carving is especially apparent in the deeply undercut, twisting tendrils, and the crisp patterns of Christ’s beard set against the smooth surface of his skin. The profile view of Christ has been traditionally associated with an emerald cameo engraved with the vera effigies (“true image”) of Christ said to have been given to Pope Innocent VIII by the Sultan Bajazet II. Variants of this profile image circulated in medals, prints, and other media. Tullio adapted the prototype to his own classical tendencies: Christ’s archaic profile and blank eyes imbue him with an ideal beauty, which would have been understood to represent the Redeemer’s divine nature.
The relatively small size of the work suggests that it was a meditational object for a household altar or small chapel. It may originally have been painted in colors.
(William Doyle Galleries, 29 January 1997, New York, no. 54) as Continental School, 19th century;
purchased by Kemelman Trading S.A., Panama;
purchased by Plato Art Investments Limited, St. Helier, Jersey, 1997;
purchased by Plato Art Collection Limited, St. Helier, Jersey, 2003;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2005.