The right hand of the standing figure of the Christ Child is raised in the gesture of a blessing; the left hand is open and could hold a banner in a procession. The boy’s almond-shaped eyes give it an absent, almost melancholic, introverted appearance. Through the use of colour, the pink cheeks and dark curls that frame the delicate face are highlighted in particular.
The ‘Niño Jesús’ that Juan Martínez Montañés created in 1606 for the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament in Sevilla became a prototype. Small figures of Christ enjoyed considerable popularity especially for private worship. Lead casts, made using a mould taken from the original, rendered duplication simple. The painting of the figures, executed with the greatest care and artistic skill, heightened their realistic effect while also helping to deepen a person’s belief.
The painting of a sculpture was attributed a special role in contemporary art theory as well. Franciso Pacheco (1564–1644), known today less as an art theorist and more as a teacher and as the father-in-law of the artist Velázquez, devoted a chapter in his work Arte de la Pintura, that was published posthumously in 1649, to the colours of painted sculpture. Pacheco was convinced that a sculpture could only be brought to life and rendered realistic by a painter. The Spanish word encarnación is the root of the art term ‘carnation’ used to describe a skin colour in painting.