Tender images of the Christ child sleeping encouraged devout Christians to meditate on Christ’s humanity.
Christ—no longer an infant, but a young child—sprawls on a bed of straw, his head thrown back in slumber and his right arm dangling. The simple radiance framing his head indicates his divinity. Representations of the sleeping Christ child were enduringly popular, not only because of the subject’s inherent charm, but sleep, as a metaphor for death, encouraged pious Christians to meditate on Christ’s humanity and his eventual suffering and death. Filippo Parodi’s Sleeping Christ Child beguiles with lifelike detail. Parodi used varying degrees of polish to differentiate surface textures: Christ’s body is burnished to a soft gleam, while his hair and the straw are more roughly carved, absorbing rather than reflecting the light. Parodi exploited the sensuous and tactile possibilities of the marble to enhance the emotional impact of his piece, a tactic learned from the master of Italian Baroque sculpture, Gianlorenzo Bernini.
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