Museums and Art

“Descent from the Cross”, Sebastiano del Piombo - description of the painting

“Descent from the Cross”, Sebastiano del Piombo - description of the painting

Descent from the Cross - Sebastiano del Piombo. Oil on Canvas, 260 x 193 cm

The painting was painted during the artist’s stay in Rome. During this period, he was influenced by Raphael and his friend Michelangelo. Thanks to the mixture of styles of the Roman and Venetian art schools, Sebastiano del Piombo manages to achieve a sense of monumentality, grandeur and at the same time a special spirituality and emotional character.

The plot of the picture conveys one of the most tragic moments in the gospel - the removal of Jesus from the cross after execution. The diagonal composition helps add movement to the frozen shapes. In the foreground, we see the figure of Christ lying on the shroud. His body is not disfigured by death, it feels like he is sleeping. Above him kneels Mary Magdalene. The mournful expression of her face and twisted hands make us feel the whole tragedy of what happened. Mother of Jesus Mary lost her feelings of grief, her motionless body supports Nicodemus. One of the myrrh-bearing women comforts the Virgin Mary, the second wipes her tears with a handkerchief. Joseph of Arimatheaus supports the Virgin’s head with one hand and at the same time gives instructions to workers lifting the lid of a stone sarcophagus. His outstretched arm connects two groups of people into a single composition.

The dramatic picture adds a gloomy landscape. Golgotha ​​with crucifixes is visible in the upper left corner, Jerusalem in the distance blackens against a background of a crimson sunset. All nature mourns with people, empathizing with the death of Christ.

This picture is considered one of the best works of the artist. Previously, it was the central part of the triptych, commissioned by Jeronimo Vich y Valterra - Ambassador of the Spanish King Ferdinand II and Emperor Charles V in Rome. One side part was the painting “The Descent of Christ into Hell” (Prado Museum, Madrid), the second side part of the triptych “The Appearance of Christ to the Apostles” (Olonets, Czech Republic) was lost and is known from a copy made by the artist Francisco Ribalta in the 17th century.


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