José Dias dos Santos, attr. to

Aveiro, Portugal, 17th century
Infant Christ reclining
Last quarter 17th, terracotta, with old polychromy and gilding, 29 x 28 cm

A child as the bearer of hope

The divine infant

Conquering hearts

A child is a symbol for the future of humanity. All the more so, when the child depicted is the young Jesus – for a long time the only baby child found in Christian art history. The divine infant in the crib or on the arm of his mother, the Virgin Mary, profoundly influenced the depiction of children up until the 15th century. During the Renaissance, the impact of images from Antiquity started to show: the Christ Child became sweeter, more playful, as can be seen in this small Portuguese painting of the Cupid-like divine infant.

Princess Joanna

Princess Joanna

A paragon in Portugal

In Aveiro, the city where this picture of the sleeping Christ Child was made, as well as in the whole of Portugal, Saint Joanna of Portugal (1452–1490) is still venerated to this day. She was the daughter of the Portuguese King Alfonso V and Isabella of Portugal. Declared the heir presumptive to the throne while still in her cradle, she later lost her claim for the throne after the birth of her brother, John II. In 1475 she entered the Dominican Order in Aveiro where she died in 1490. Joanna was beatified in 1693 by Pope Innocent XII.

The Venice of Portugal

Exploring the canals

Moliceiros – the canal boats

Aveiro is called the ‘Venice of Portugal’ due to its many canals. Colourful moliceiros ply the waters and give the city its own unique charm. The three major canals are the Canal Central (Canal de São Roque), the Canal das Pirâmides and the Canal dos Santos Mârtires.