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Anonyme, XVe siècle

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Date : Late 15th century | Medium : Sculpture in wood with plaster finishing

Circa 1494, Michelangelo produced his Christ (today in the Santo Spirito church in Florence), a major work and a sculpture of groundbreaking impact in terms of its nudity and its form. This Christ enjoyed a resounding success at the time, before being subsequently rejected from the following century onwards, as the artist’s concept came to be seen as too profane, if not downright indecent. There is also a version of it attributed to Andrea Sansovino in a private collection, and another attributed to Benedetto da Maiano in the San Marco Museum in Florence. The Rouen Christ constitutes a reduced-size version, probably intended as an object of private devotion, although it may alternatively have been used as a permanent church fixture attached to the pulpit and brandished by priests at appropriate moments during their sermons.   

In the context of the Florentine Renaissance at the end of the 15th century, marked by the search for a humanist ideal, Michelangelo adopted the neo-Platonic concept developed by the famous monk Savonarola, according to which the perfection and beauty of the soul are reflected in the physical body. Savonarola himself kept one of these Christs inspired by the great artist in his monastic cell.

Michelangelo thus chose to return to the Greek ideal of the Hellenistic period, preferring its fluid, sensitive and graceful style to the representation of athletic nudity, and employing contrapposto, by which the left leg is used as the supporting leg and the right leg traces a swivelling movement from the hips the force of which is transmitted all the way up to the head. The body of Christ can thus be represented totally naked, as though clothed exclusively by its divine grace. This grace, which reflects the perfection of God Made Man, can be seen even in the hair, the calm, peaceful and serene nature of which conveys the idea of a man who is not really dead, but merely sleeping