Christ Blessing1494 - 1496. Mixed method on panel, 169 x 132 cm.
On his throne, wearing a red tunic and holding the globe of the World in his left hand, Christ offers his blessing with his right. He is flanked by figures representing the Church and the Synagogue and surrounded by the Tetramorph. Christ is presented as the Savior of the world in this work that contrasts the figure of the Synagogue, with Moses’s tablets and a torn banner; and the figure of the Church, who wears a laurel crown and bears the flag of Victory and a chalice with the Host as a symbol of the new promise of death and Resurrection through Christ. His Word, recorded in the Gospel of the New Testament, is represented by the Tetramorph, the symbols of the four evangelists: the eagle of Saint John, the bull of Saint Luke, the lion of Saint Mark and the angel of Saint Matthew. This work’s gothic architecture, composition and pictorial technique make it a fine example of Gallego’s refined style, steeped in Flemish elements. It comes from the church of San Lorenzo de Toro and, while traditionally considered part of an altarpiece, it must actually have been made for the tombs in which don Pedro de Castilla and his wife, Beatriz Rodríguez de Fonseca y Ulloa where buried in 1492.
Technical studies carried out at the Museo del Prado have revealed an important change in this work’s iconography. First, the painter drew Christ wearing a crown, with the Lamb over the Book of the Seven Seals at his feet. This was never actually painted, but it is visible in the underlying drawing. That image is quite different than the one on the surface of this work, and the changes were probably not the painter’s decision. It seems likely that his client saw the work when it was only sketched in and ordered the change, converting the initial Christ as judge of the Apocalypse to Christ offering his blessings. There is no documentation in Castile of this control by clients (or their representatives) during the creative process, but the extraordinary manner of shading the scenes that were eventually hidden, and the change of approach that we just mentioned, suggest the scenario we have described (Text drawn from Alba, L., García-Máiquez, J., Gayo, M. D., Jover, M., Silva, P.: "Las prácticas artísticas de los pintores hispanoflamencos en la Corona de Castilla en el siglo XV", Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXII, 50, 2014, p. 136).