Christ Showing a Little Child


After Benjamin West. “Christ Showing a Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven.” London: Valentine Green, 21 June, 1807. 25 1/2 x 35 1/4. Mezzotint. Lovely and rich original hand color. Margins including title trimmed to image. Six inch tear into image from right hand side expertly repaired. Overall, very good condition. Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley’s The Paintings of Benjamin West (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1986), #325.


A stunning and beautifully executed engraving after a painting by Benjamin West. In total West painted five different versions based on this title. This print is after the first painting which was executed between 1790 and 1801. The oil was originally painted for Thomas Macklin in order to appear in an illustrated edition of the Bible.

In the bottom margin was inscribed a dedication to the governors and guardians of the Foundling Hospital and a quotation from Matthew 18: v. 2-5: “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”

This lush mezzotint was engraved by Valentine Green who is considered to be one of the finest English mezzotint portrait engravers. Green, who was an associate engraver to the Royal Academy and engraver to King George III, produced more than four hundred plates after paintings by Benjamin West, Joshua Reynolds and other well known painters. This print is very scarce and a major piece of study of Benjamin West’s work.