Livio Mehus - inv. 330

Livio Mehus (c. 1630-1691)

The Crucifixion
17th century, second half
95 x 63 cm
1892 acquisition 
Inv. 330

not on display
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This restless and original artist’s many experiences can be well seen in this strangely attractive work. The solitary figure of Christ dominates the harsh landscape in a darkening atmosphere. The last ray of the sun breaks through clouds on the illuminating the body on the cross, which recalls in its viewpoint an iconographic model widely spread in Italy by Van Dyck.

The difficulty of scholars to find a convincing attribution for the painting should not surprise when one recalls the complexity of Mehus’ personality and the many different artistic trends that found fertile ground there in which to root.

Soon after his parents moved from their native land to Milan, the artist spent some time in Florence, to return to the Lombard city by way of Lucca, Genoa and Piedmont. From 1650 he stayed in Rome, Venice, Florence and, possibly, Parma. His restless ‘wanderer’ spirit brought Mehus into contact with the most diverse schools of painting, which he successfully merged into his own extremely personal style, creating troubled visionary images which, in the case of his religious subjects, such as this Christ on the Cross, were charged with mysticism of strongly emotional intensity. This is achieved by sketchy technique, indefiniteness of the visual field and the use of strongly contrasting lights that creates expressionistic deformations.