Not currently on display at the V&A

St Christopher

ca. 1480-1490
Place of origin

This relief, showing St Christopher carrying the Christ Child, was carved in Tyrol in about 1480-1500. It almost certainly was part of the wing of an altarpiece.

Object details

Object type
TitleSt Christopher (generic title)
Materials and techniques
carved, painted and gilded limewood
Brief description
St Christopher, relief, carved, painted and gilded limewood, Tyrol, ca. 1480-1500
Physical description
The saint is carrying the naked Christ Child on his right shoulder and wades through the water. He holds a staff in the form of a branch in both hands, and is clad in a knee-length tunic under a belted cloak from which a purse is suspended. His hair is held back by a twisted headband.
The relief is made of one piece of wood except for two rectangular insertions in the saint's left knee, and above his right knee. Some patches of canvas are glued to the back, and several holes have been drilled into the relief, presumably for fixing devices. The arms and two toes of the right foot of the Christ Child are missing. A rectangular and a triangular piece at the right side of the base are missing. The Christ Child's face and body have retained their natural flesh colours, as have St Christopher's face, hands and legs, the latter with blue veins. Christ's hair is gilded; the saint's hair and beard are brown with gilded highlights. St Christopher's blue-lined short coat was originally gilded under a green glaze with silvered pressed brocade patterns under a green glaze; the short tunic was also silvered under a green glaze, as was the headband with a red glaze, all now discoloured. The purse and the staff are painted brown; the knife was originally gilded under a dark brown glaze. The base depicting the river is pale green.
  • Height: 122.5cm
  • Width: 41cm
  • Depth: 4cm
Object history
Said to have come from a church in the Tyrol. Bought at Christie's, London, 7 December 1872, lot 128.
Originally, the Christ Child's lost left hand was probably raised in blessing, while the right would have held an orb.
At the time of acquisition, the relief, which almost certainly formed part of the wing of an altarpiece, was considered to be in the style of the Nuremberg sculptor Adam Kraft (1455/60-1508/9). Wilhelm von Bode classified it as South German, about 1510 (Departmental records). The composition is loosely based on Martin Schongauer's engraving of the same subject, while the stylistic features point generally to an origin in the Tyrol; it is comparable, for example, to the relief figure of the same saint in the corpus of an altarpiece from the convent of Sonnenberg near Bruneck/Brunico by Simon and Veit von Taisten of about 1490-95, now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. The relief of St Christopher on the left wing of the altarpiece in the church of St Leonard in Laatsch by Hans von Schnatterbeck of about 1490 is also comparable. These pieces are, however, carved in pinewood, common for sculpture in the Tyrol, while the present relief is of limewood. This does not preclude an origin in the Tyrol. Several Tyrolese pieces in limewood of around the same date survive.
Historical context
This relief almost certainly formed part of a wing of an altarpiece.
Subjects depicted
Literary referenceBible
This relief, showing St Christopher carrying the Christ Child, was carved in Tyrol in about 1480-1500. It almost certainly was part of the wing of an altarpiece.
Bibliographic references
  • List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1872, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1872 (?), pp. 110-111
  • Geary, Angela. 'Three Dimensional Digital Visualisation Research in Progress,' V&A Conservation Journal, July 1999, no. 32, pp. 12-14, fig. 2
  • Jopek, Norbert. German Sculpture 1430-1540: A Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 2002, pp. 130-131, cat. no. 61
Accession number

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Record createdFebruary 5, 2003
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