It shows the young Christ in his age of awareness, kneeling in front of the symbols of the Passion. He is dressed in a wide white tunic, symbol of purity. The evening light is mystical.
This previously unknown image adds a new theme to the Christian iconography. The engraver Wierix who died in 1619 had published the image of a young adult saint in the same attitude. No image of Christ at that age in that role was known up to now. A little later Murillo will be one of the very few artists to consider the pre-adolescence of Christ but in less mystical attitudes. We also knew a newborn Christ sleeping on the cross.
The role of Christ is played on this Le Nain painting by a young boy of about twelve or thirteen with a beautiful childish face, fair skin and blond hair. This very recognizable healthy child appears at various ages in works by Le Nain, as an angel and then as a young peasant.
The small size of this painting indicates that it was made for a private devotional use. It is difficult to appreciate why no similar example is known, especially since it is well matching the new trends of the Counter-Reformation considering that the life of Christ must be analyzed as a whole. On this point the presentiment of sad Madonnas by Botticelli is a precedent.
Le Nain has treated here the age of wisdom when Christ understands and accepts his destiny for the first time. The same passage is important for the kings of France who are assisted by a regency until the age of 13 years. From 1643 to 1651 King Louis XIV is a minor. Once the king has begun his personal reign, it is possible that the boy Christ had a decreasing appeal to the customers of the only survivor of the Le Nain brothers.
This painting of l'Enfant Jésus méditant sur les instruments de la Passion is estimated € 1M to be sold by Rouillac at the annual Garden Party auction at Château d'Artigny on June 10, lot 60. Higher expectations had been announced in March before this work was classified as French Trésor National.
I invite you to read the essay prepared by Rouillac which contains many convincing illustrations to demonstrate the importance of the artwork. The video is shared by the auction house.
SOLD for € 2.9M before fees