Unknown Florentine sculptor
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This painted wood sculpture of baby Jesus is attributed to an unknown artist and dated to the sixteenth century. It was found deep in a cupboard in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Montalcino. The sculpture is likely modelled after a popular sculpture widely copied in the period that was created by Desiderio da Settignano and displayed above the wall-tabernacle in the church of San Lorenzo. Similar to this sculpture, Desiderio's version shows Jesus standing naked with his right hand pointed upwards in a sign of blessing. Vasari states that by the sixteenth century Desiderio's sculpture was moved from the wall-tabernacle and placed on the altar of the church during Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so it is possible that this baby Jesus served a similar purpose in the Cathedral of Montalcino. Alternatively, this sculpture may have been one of the many ""holy dolls"" given to nuns or newlywed women. These individuals would swaddle and dress these dolls as if they were living babies, and at times would even hang jewellery around them, similar to the coral necklace and anklets painted on the sculpture here, which might be original or perhaps a reference to this practice. Some people, such as the fiery Dominican preacher, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, condemned such dressing up as a form of idolatry. Ironically, Savonarola used similar sculptures in public processions before he was executed for heresy in 1498. Today, the sculpture is displayed in the Museo Civico e Diocesano d'Arte Sacra in Montalcino. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.