Sandro Botticelli - inv. 1558

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

The Dead Christ Mourned
1495-1500
tempera on panel  
106 x 71 cm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1558

Golden Room
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The composition is dramatic: the persons surrounding Christ exhibit their profound agony through their inability to look at the dead body; some have their eyes closed, while others cover their sight with their hands. In the background, Joseph of Arimatea dominates the group below him. His raised hands hold the nails and the crown of thorns, while his gaze, also raised to the sky, reminds the viewer of the divine plan underlying the drama taking place at his feet.


The striking chromatic contrast created by the red, blue and yellow tones used, also increases the pathos of the scene.
This painting was executed at the end of the 1490s, and so it belongs to the late stages of Sandro Botticelli's career, which marked a profound evolution in the style of the Florentine master. This change is to be put in relation with the painter's renovated and intense religious sentiment, which he acquired following the predicaments of the Dominican monk Gerolamo Savonarola. Botticelli fully embraced Savonarola's call for a more profound religiosity. This event, alongside the feeling of loss for the death of the Florentine ruler and art patron Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, caused Botticelli a period of great spiritual turmoil.


These biographical details were reflected in the artist's pictorial style, which passes from the calm linearity of Botticelli's mature paintings, to the creation of fragmentary and highly dramatic compositions.
"The Dead Christ Mourned" was probably an altarpiece in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence, after the Eighteenth century, however, the work is no longer documented.  The date and circumstance of its acquisition by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli are unknown, but probably entered the collection in the last years of his life.