Christo Vivo, Northern Spain, mid 13th century 

Christo Vivo

Northern Spain, mid 13th century 


117.2 cm; 3 ft. 10 in.


Private collection, Paris

Although depicting the crucifixion of the dying Saviour, this exceptional object evokes in the viewer a sense of serenity, peace and a haunting calm. Carved in walnut, dating from around 1250 and emanating most likely from Northern Spain, the work, hollowed on the reverse, captures Christ in the final reflective moments prior to death, the poignancy of which the sculptor shares with the transfixed observer in an intimate alliance. With an exquisitely beautiful face, his eyebrows furrowed, with closing heavy downcast eyes and well carved mouth, the fading Christ prepares for death. He wears a twisted rope-like crown which sits atop stylised hair, a similar short beard and moustache with looped hook shaped end curls. With concave chest, parallel ribs and a slightly swollen abdomen, he is clothed in a long rectangular knee-length perizonium with a thick twisted belt, the fabric falling on three sides in a series of sharp ‘V’ folds. The legs are positioned asymmetrically, the left vertical, the right bent and in front, one foot resting on the other. 

Timeless in every sense, this mesmerising work illustrates perfectly how early art continues to move a modern audience and can complement equally well the most traditional or contemporary of spaces.