Head of Christ

Date: late 15th–early 16th century

Geography: Made in North Brabant, The Netherlands

Culture: Netherlandish

Medium: Limestone, traces of wood thorns

Dimensions: Overall: 9 9/16 x 10 1/2 x 9 1/8in. (24.3 x 26.7 x 23.2cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Stone

Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund; Gifts of J. Pierpont Morgan, George Blumenthal and Duveen Brothers, by exchange; Bequests of George Blumenthal, Michael Dreicer, Theodore M. Davis and Anne D. Thomson, by exchange; and Mr. and Mrs. Maxime L. Hermanos Gift, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.406


Piety in the late Middle Ages encouraged the believer's intense emotional empathy in the suffering of Christ. Here, stone is transformed into flesh by the actual wood thorns piercing the forehead. The capacity for sculptural naturalism developed in Burgundy by Claus Sluter (ca. 1360–before 1406) and Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden (active 1460–73?) here endows the noble face of the dead Christ with an uncanny intensity. The head was part of a devotional group, either a Pietà or an Entombment of Christ.