E.156 Christ in a Niche I

E.156 Anonymous, Christ in a Niche I

Engraving, Anonymous, 24.4 x 12 L (New York).

Fig.E.156 (New York)

COLLECTION: New York, 32.92.27 (25), as by Boyvin (upper left and lower right corners and bottom edge torn, repaired, and redrawn; lower left corner torn.  Inscribed in pencil on mount: René Boyvin – Le Christ – morceau non decrit.  PROVENANCE: Unidentified collector’s mark in the lower margin showing the letters PD in a square).


Eisler, 1969, 244, n. 162, may be referring to this print as the one by Boyvin that he believes was done after the central figure in Cherubino Alberti’s engraving of Rosso’s Altar.  For other bibliography on this image, see E.4.

Carroll, 1987, 41, 352-354, no. 111, with Fig. (New York).

Béguin, 1988 (1989), 11, 16, n. 21, as after a lost French drawing by Rosso.

Carroll, 1989, 16, Fig. 31.

Ciardi, 1994, 54, Fig. (New York), 55, as showing knowledge of Michelangelo’s Minerva Christ.


This image was used by Cherubino Alberti to fill the central niche of his engraving after Rosso’s Design for an Altar (Fig.D.38a), to the lower part of which he added figures from the Milan-Boyvin engraving of the Nymph of Fontainebleau, also after Rosso (Fig.E.103).  Alberti’s use of the Christ in a Niche to complete the Altar engraving, which is inscribed with Rosso’s name, might indicate that he knew the former was designed by Rosso.  However, Alberti used a copy of a copy of this print, Christ in a Niche III (Fig.E.158), rather than the one catalogued here.

The body of Christ is very similar to one kind that Rosso frequently uses, as for his Mercury (Fig.E.38) and Saturn (Fig.E.26) of the Gods in Niches series of 1526.  But what is also especially similar to what appears in Rosso’s art is the light raking across the figure from one side, hence casting into various levels of relief the anatomy of the body, as found also in the Gods in Niches and in such a drawing as the study for the figure of St. Sebastian of the Dei Altarpiece (Fig.D.7).  But the figure of Christ is not anatomically as specifically detailed as those figures nor so tense in his pose.  In these respects he resembles Rosso’s Empedocles- St. Roch (Fig.D.80a).  Where the anatomy of that figure is visible, it is very much like that of the Christ in a Niche.  Their upraised hands are almost identical.  The ease of Christ’s pose can also be related to Judith’s in Rosso’s drawing in Los Angeles (Fig.D.84a).  It is most likely that the Christ in a Niche was invented about the same time, around 1538-1540.

The engraving was certainly based on a lost drawing by Rosso, probably of the kind of the Empedocles-St. Roch and the Judith and Holofernes.  The print even seems to show an attempt to imitate something of their kind of draughtsmanship.  With Christ’s wound shown on his left side, the print must be in reverse, which seems also indicated by the fact that Christ gestures towards the chalice with his left hand.

For the use of this image in a window at Écouen, see under Christ in a Niche II, E.157.  The precise source of the representation used at Écouen still needs to be determined.  If it is the print catalogued here, then the print must date before 1545, making it unlikely that it is by Boyvin.

COPY: Anonymous, Christ in a Niche II.  See the following catalogue entry, E.157, with further bibliography on this image.

For other versions of this image, see the anonymous Christ in a Niche III, E.158, and under Martino Rota, E.106.