Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Rose Wylie
B. 1934
signed and dated 1990 on the reverse
oil on two joined canvases
216 by 217 cm. 85 by 85 1/2 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report


Reed’s Wharf Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Reed’s Wharf Gallery, Rose Wylie: Likeness in the Unknown, Recent Paintings, February - March 1995, n.p., illustrated in colour


Clarrie Wallis, Rose Wylie, London 2018, p. 123, no. 107, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1990, Rose Wylie’s Baby Jesus of Prague offers a striking, monumental depiction of the figure of Christ in infancy, one hand raised in Benedictine gesture, while the other clutches a globius cruciger. The painting bears the unmistakable iconographic attributes of a Salvator Mundi, specifically quoting from the iconic  sixteenth century Roman Catholic wax sculpture Infant Jesus of Christ at the Church of our Lady Victorious in Prague. A proliferation of copies of this iconic sculpture have circulated in Catholic communities across the globe, embedding the image into a shared visual register. By appropriating such recognisable icons from art history and popular visual culture as source material for her paintings, Wylie explores the role of the artist as an image consumer, image-maker and image disseminator. Wylie explains “the viewer can see a connection in the transformation, which will have taken place… And with the ‘known’ subjects the painting taps into a shared consciousness rather than the private and closed world of the artist” (Rose Wylie cited in: Clarrie Wallis, Rose Wylie, London 2018, p. 43). In the present work, the importance of the role of the artist in this transformation is highlighted by the inclusion of a self-portrait, rendered in her idiosyncratic bold, colourful brushstrokes, peering wide-eyed across the canvas to the figure of the infant Christ.

In Baby Jesus of Prague Wylie ruminates on themes of fandom, veneration and iconography throughout the ages. The present work stands as a brilliant example of Wylie’s encyclopedic engagement in Art History and visual culture, spanning from illuminated medieval manuscripts to celebrity images in glossy magazines. “While it might seem odd that work teeming with aspects of contemporary popular culture should also be rich in associations to art history, the contrast highlights Wylie’s singularity” (Clarrie Wallis cited in: Ibid). The concept of the venerated ‘hero figure’ of celebrity culture is highlighted brilliantly in Baby Jesus of Prague, where the artist’s appropriation of this unmistakable icon of Roman Catholicism acts as a fluent and masterful extension of her fascination with contemporary visual culture. Baby Jesus of Prague is not without Wylie’s signature tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the world surrounding her, as the figure of the Christ is depicted without attention to classical rules or proportion, in canary yellow tones with distinctly chubby cheeks.

Rose Wylie’s inimitable bright tones and monumental depictions of icons of visual culture have gained her increasing levels of recognition, and firmly positioned her as one of the most important emerging artists of our time.

Contemporary Art Day Auction