Latief the Thief - Richard Hughes

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

Richard Hughes

The work was originally inspired by the figure of Jesus being lowered from the cross in Jacopo Sansovino’s ‘The Descent From the Cross’. I found the piece deeply moving and the form of the human body beautifully portrayed on this small scale.

My work represents the moments before this scene. It shows the release of spiritual energy that suffering, represented here physically, can produce through inner transformation. The light emanating from the darkness of the abyss. The beams of light intimate the activation of the ‘lataif’, which in Sufi terminology are the subtle spiritual organs, each of which being associated with a specific colour and location on the body.

From my love of Greek mythology the central character of the work metamorphosed into Prometheus punished by the gods on a rock in the Caucasus. So the piece is a syncretism of Christian iconography, Greek mythology, and Sufi philosophy. The Caucasus being a centre of Sufi activity throughout the past 1000 years and also home to Armenia the first Christian country.

The Prometheus figure was given horns because I always enjoyed that Michelangelo gave his Moses horns. I’ve read this was due to a mistranslation of the bible, but to me it was a play on the diabolical nature of man, and the twin aspect to our heroes. This small detail speaks to the darkness and light motifs of the sculpture.

The piece is called ‘Lataif the thief’ after the Sufi tale of the same name. The rhyming name seemed appropriate to my Prometheus, being the thief who stole the fire from the gods.

Latief the Thief - Richard Hughes

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:

The Descent from the Cross


Rome, Italy (probably, modelled)

ca. 1513 (modelled)

Sansovino, Jacopo, born 1486 - died 1570 (sculptor)

Gilt wax and wood, in full relief

V&A collection reference number(s):

2015 Exhibition Guide

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