Christ Child blessing
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Christ Child blessing
This Christ Child Blessing, holding a globe, is a typical example of the ‘Poupées de Malines’. These figurines were produced in large quantities in Mechelen from the mid-15th century to c. 1530. Ideally, they are carved from one piece of wood. The majority is between 26 and 38 cm tall. These polychrome statues are sometimes also gilded. The Mechelen poupées or dolls have a characteristic round face and high forehead. They usually represent saints.
The Poupées de Malines were primarily used for private devotion, in private chapels, the cells of the clergy and beguinages. The beguines created all kinds of garments to clothe the dolls, sometimes finished with silver or gold brocade. On Christmas day, the Christ figure was placed in a manger decorated with bells on the altar. These dolls were also incorporated in the Enclosed Gardens. They were relatively cheap and very popular. They were a popular export product, mainly to Spain and Portugal. Apparently, Ferdinand Magellan took a Poupée de Malines with him on his circumnavigation of the Earth (1519-1521).
The small globe in Christ’s left hand symbolises his Divine Rulership. With his right hand, he makes a blessing gesture, which derives from the Roman gesture requesting permission to speak.
Title: Christ Child blessing
Object type: statue of a saint
Date: 16th century
Dimensions: 34.5 x 14.0 x 7.0 cm
Inventory number: B0728
Origin: Bequest of Joseph Jacobs and Josée Broos, bequeathed to the City of Mechelen in 2013
Christina Ceulemans et al, Mechels houtsnijwerk in de eeuw van Keizer Karel : Het Mechels Meubel 1500-2000; Van houtsnijwerk tot design (tentoonstelling Mechelen, Museum Schepenhuis, 4.2 – 7.5.2000). Mechelen, 2000.
Fanny Cayron en Delphine Steyaert, Made in Malines. Les statuettes malinoises ou poupées de Malines de 1500-1540. Étude matérielle et typologique. Brussel, 2019.