Émile Munier was born in Paris and lived with his family at 66 rue des Fosses, St. Marcel. His father, Pierre François Munier, was an artist upholsterer at the Manufacture nationale des Gobelins and his mother, Marie Louise Carpentier, was a polisher in a cashmere cloth mill. Émile and his two brothers, François and Florimond, were talented artists and each spent some time at the Gobelins. During Emile's training he developed a close relationship with his professor Abel Lucas and his family. He eventually married Abel's daughter Henriette.
During the 1860s, Munier received three medals at the Beaux-Arts, and in 1869 he exhibited at the Paris Salon. He became a great supporter of the Academic ideals and a student and follower of William Bouguereau whose subject matter would be an important inspiration to the young artist. Munier was a frequent visitor and friend of William Bouguereau and the two artists formed a special bond. Bouguereau even had a nickname for him, La sagesse or Le sage Munier. It is clear that Bouguereau had an enormous influence on Munier, as the student fully adopted the style and subject matter of the master. The exceptional draughtsmanship and high degree of finish so essential to the work of Bouguereau is clearly evident to a very high degree throughout Munier’s oeuvre.
Images of children abound in Munier’s oeuvre and it is not surprising that he would choose to depict the infant Christ. In this sensitive rendition of the Christ Child blessing, Munier demonstrates his ability to capture the essence of childhood. The Christ Child looks serenely out of the picture plane with his hands in the iconic gesture of blessing and forgiveness, his delicate blond curls creating a natural halo within the golden one that adorns his head. The palette is restrained and the background is dark and simple. The prominent use of white and gold emphasizes the Child’s divinity, while the beautiful rendering of Jesus’ face underscores his humanity.