Bernard Buffet

Holy Face


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Bernard Buffet 1928–1999
Original title
Drypoint on paper
Image: 509 × 647 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Bernard Buffet born 1928

P77136 Holy Face 1953

Drypoint 509 x 647 (20 x 25 1/2) on Rives BFK paper 555 x 762 (21 7/8 x 30); plate-mark 532 x 670 (21 x 26 3/8); watermark ‘BFK'; printed by Lacourière, Paris and published by Creuzevault, Paris in an edition of 75
Inscribed ‘Bernard Buffet' below image b.r. and ‘32/75' below image b.l.
Purchased at Christie's (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Lit: Dario Covi, The Passion of Christ. Dry Points by Bernard Buffet, exh. cat., Allen R. Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville, Kentucky 1960, pp.4-5; Maurice Rheims, Bernard Buffet. Graveur, Nice and Paris 1983, p.220, repr. p.17. Also repr Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints, Christie's, 1985, p.47 (lot 274).

In P77136 two hands hold up a cloth depicting the head of Christ, crowned in thorns.

In a letter to the compiler post-marked 16 June 1988 the artist confirmed that P77136 refers to the legend of Saint Veronica. According to the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, when Christ was on His way to be crucified, Saint Veronica wiped His brow with her veil and miraculously it retained the likeness of Christ wearing a crown of thorns. The supposed cloth of Saint Veronica is preserved as a holy relic in St Peter's, Rome.

Although Saint Veronica frequently appears in depictions of the crucifixion she is not shown in Buffet's crucifixion paintings of the late forties and fifties. In 1952 Buffet painted ‘Le Voile de Sainte Véronique' 1952 (oil on canvas, repr. Yann le Pichon, Bernard Buffet, I, Paris, 1980, p.228 in col.). It is similar to P77136, although the head is slightly smaller in relation to the cloth, which is held up by two nails rather than by hands. Much later, in 1961, Buffet painted a series of religious works. ‘Le Voile de Sainte Véronique' from this series (oil on canvas, repr. ibid., pp.532-3 in col.) shows Saint Veronica holding up her veil, surrounded by three other mourners. This work is in the Vatican Museum, Rome.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.323


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