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Christ carrying the cross
Giordano, Luca
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Giordano, Luca

Naples (Italy), 1634 - Naples (Italy), 1705

Giordano, Luca See author's file

Christ carrying the cross

Ca. 1697. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

The first known reference to this painting from the Spanish Royal Collection dates from 1700, when it was mentioned as being in the Alcázar, Madrid, along with another painting by Luca Giordano, Mater Dolorosa, now lost. It is in magnificent condition, and was restored in 2007.

The powerful foreground shows Christ, rope around his neck, painfully carrying the cross. The general tone evokes the scene’s pathos with a dramatic monochrome broken only by flesh tones, a glistening halo around his head and the blood running down his body. Christ’s serene face and bony hands emphasise this pathos and invite the viewer to reflect upon his Passion. The considerable success of this iconography is manifest in the number of extant versions made of it. The tight brushstrokes and excellent quality of the Prado’s work indicate that it may be the very first. Subsequent versions monotonously repeat this work with a faithfulness that contrasts with Giordano’s great fondness for reinventing himself. Christ carrying the cross, c.1697, is a genuine product of Giordano’s stay in Spain, where he adopted models from the paintings of Sebastiano del Piombo and Titian.

If the date c.1697 proposed by Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi in their monograph on this artist is correct, we must accept that for this work Giordano returned to a brushstroke that predates his move to Madrid in 1692, is characterised by clearer profiles, more detailed anatomy and colours mixed on the palette rather than overlapped directly on the canvas.

The brushstrokes are shorter and smaller than in other contemporary works, avoiding the characteristic impasto highlights. X-rays of this painting show neither changes nor major corrections were made during its completion.

Giordano was a Neapolitan artist who spent ten years (1692-1702) in Spain, where he made important mural decorations at the monastery of El Escorial, Madrid, and another in Toledo, as well as innumerable oil paintings. Until recently his prestige was overshadowed by the criticism of late eighteenth-century classicist critics. Specifically, Giordano was accused of crafting decorative, routine paintings that lacked personality. Equally misunderstood was his capacity to imitate other artists, which he did throughout his career, often with surprising results. The most recent criticism has reversed these negative opinions, judging Girodano’s imitations as some of the most passionate works in his oeuvre (Úbeda de los Cobos, A.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 180).


Technical data

Inventory number
Giordano, Luca
Christ carrying the cross
Ca. 1697
Height: 77 cm; Width: 71 cm
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Ares Espada, Il soggiorno spagolo di Luca Giordano. Tésis doctoral., Universidad de Bolonia, Bolonia, 1954-55, pp. 13-16.

Griseri, Andreina, Luca Giordano 'alla maniera di...', ARTE ANTICA E MODERNA, 1961, pp. 432.

Ferrari, Oreste, Luca Giordano., II, Edizione Scientifiche Italiani, Nápoles, 1966, pp. 204/ lám. 412.

Noticias. Levantamiento definitivo de depósitos, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 28, 1989, pp. 124.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Rodríguez Rico, Carmen, Aportaciones y precisiones sobre obras de Luca Giordano, Goya: Revista de arte, 285, 2001, pp. 346.

Gayo, Mª Dolores; Jover de Celis, Maite, Evolución de las preparaciones en la pintura sobre lienzo de los siglos XVII y XVIII en España., Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXVIII, 2010, pp. 39-59.

Ubeda de los Cobos, A, Luca Giordano 'Christ carrying the cross' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 180.

Úbeda de los Cobos, Andrés, Luca Giordano en el Museo Nacional del Prado: catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 188-190.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1972. Núm. 174.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 174.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 197.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. 50.
Jesús con la cruz a cuestas. Jordán / Lº / 120

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 869.
Giordano. / 869. Nuestro Señor llevando la Cruz. / Alto 2 pies, 9 pulg; ancho 2 pies, 6 pulg, 3 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 869.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 9.
{9} Dos pinturas de a bara poco más o menos. Un Christo Con la Cruz a cuestas y nuestra Señora Dolorossa Con marcos dorados de mano de Jordan tasadas a Veintte doblones cada una ... 40

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Luca Giordano in the Casón del Buen Retiro
21.02.2008 - 01.06.2008

Update date: 02-06-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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