18th-Century Cusco School

Christ With Arma Christi

18th-Century Cusco School

Christ With Arma Christi

This rare mid-18th-century Cusco School oil painting depicts Christ holding the ‘Arma Christi’.

The Arma Christi, also referred to as the ‘Weapons of Christ’ or ‘Instruments of the Passion’ are the various iconic objects used by Christ in his conquest against Satan. The group contains around 20 items, which have been depicted through art in various guises. Here, we see the Crown of Thorns, three nails (from the cross*), and possibly the ‘Holy Sponge’. However, there are also some unusual inclusions, which do not relate directly - for instance the golden rod, red robe, and crown.

From 1532, Cusco became a Spanish colony and the church sought to convert the indigenous population - with art a vital component. Hence, Cusco School works are quite fascinating as they blend traditional iconography with local Peruvian beliefs. The result is a varied array of unusual portrayals depicting an amalgamation of ideologies.

Given its unusual symbolism, it’s been suggested that the figure is a ruler, such as a King, holding the Arma Christi - akin to relics. Thus communicating their divine right. However, that would be most peculiar and we feel it’s more likely to be Christ wearing a crown to indicate his ultimate power on Earth.

By the 18th century, the popularity of the Cusco School painters reached such an extent that various workshops were established on an industrial scale. Hundreds of religious paintings were produced during this period and sold in various cities. This particular piece was probably sold in Peru around 1750 and it’s a fascinating historical survivor.

*It’s interesting to see three nails depicted rather than four as this relates to Triclavianism.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 22” x 32½” / 56cm x 83cm
Year of creation: c. 1750
Condition: Artwork presents well. Canvas relined. Later stretcher. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Old restorations. Retains areas of original gilt on the surface.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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