Sandro Botticelli (FLORENCE, 1445-1510) - inv. 1558
The composition is dramatic: the figures surrounding Christ show their 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 Arimathea dominates the group below him. His hands hold the nails and the crown of thorns, while his gaze, raised to the sky, reminds the viewer of the divine plan underlying the death of Christ.
The striking chromatic contrast of red, blue and yellow increases the pathos of the scene.
This painting is datable in the late 1490s, and so it belongs to the late Botticelli's career, which marked a profound evolution in his style. This change was due to the painter's renovated religious sentiment, following the preaching of the Dominican monk Gerolamo Savonarola. This new religiosity, alongside the feeling of loss for the death of the Florentine ruler and art patron Lorenzo il Magnifico in 1492, caused Botticelli a period of great spiritual turmoil.
These biographical details are evident in the change of the artist's style, from the calm linearity of his mature paintings, to fragmentary and dramatic compositions.
This painting has been identified as the altarpiece of a small altar, which was still in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence in the mid-16th century.