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Christ carrying the Cross
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
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Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Veneto (Italy), 1490 - Venice (Italy), 1576

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) See author's file

Christ carrying the Cross

Ca. 1565. Oil on canvas.
Room 043

Renaissance painting abounds with representations of Christ bearing the cross on the road to Calvary, either as an isolated figure, or with an executioner assailing him, or accompanied by soldiers, curious bystanders and followers, among whom the depiction of Simon of Cyrene is relatively common. According to three of the evangelists (Matthew 27:32-33, Mark 15:21-22, and Luke 23:26-27), Simon carried the cross when Christ became exhausted. Exceptional, however, both in the context of Titian´s Venice and the rest of Europe, are compositions featuring only Jesus and the Cyrenian. The lack of such works prior to Titian´s original painting from around 1560 (P00439) -the earliest surviving example of such a composition- suggests that the subject was an invenzione of his own, though probably suggested by Philip II of Spain (1527-98), for it was he who commissioned that first version for his private chapel in the monastery at El Escorial. The inherent prestige of a commission from the most powerful monarch in Europe must have encouraged Titian to produce others; thus, around 1565, Titian again represented the episode, in the version we see here. A copy of this painting, by Titian´s own hand, also survives and is today housed in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. The assignment of the later date to the painting is supported by Titian´s layering of short brushstrokes thick with diverse colours, which was characteristic of his last period.Who commissioned this second version? It appears most likely it was also the person on whom the figure of the Cyrenian is based. Carlo Ridolfi´s 1646 text Le maraviglie dell´arte: Ovvero le vite degli illustri pittori veneti e dello stato (The marvels of art: that is, the lives of the illustrious painters from Venice and from the state), asserted that the image of Simon is a portrait of Francesco Zuccato, an important Venetian mosaicist and a member of a family with close ties to Titian.Zuccato´s father, Sebastiano Zuccati, had been Titian´s first teacher when he moved to Venice at the age of nine. The Cyrenian´s individualised features and the bejewelled ring, prominent on his right thumb, support the idea that this is a portrait of a specific individual, rather than a generic figure (the Cyrenian is more usually portrayed as a peasant). By having himself painted as Simon, Zuccato would have been able to visualise his commitment to Christ and his desire to suffer like Him and with Him.Ridolfi´s assertion of Zuccato as the individual on which the Cyrenian is based was made on the evidence of the painting now in the Hermitage, but since Simon´s features are identical in both versions, we can assume the Prado´s Cyrenian is also an image of Zuccato. Furthermore, the Prado´s canvas must have been painted for Zuccato himself, for the copy in the Hermitage is from the Barbarigo collection, which had acquired it from Titian´s heirs. It had been among several works left in the painter´s studio on his death in 1576, including versions of other paintings Titian had already delivered, and which he kept in order to make further copies. This must have been the case with the Hermitage canvas.The painting possesses a strong emotional charge. In contrast to the 1560 version executed for Philip II, showing Christ´s fall and Calvary in the distance, Titian has here reduced the narrative elements to a minimum, accentuating the scene´s dramatic qualities. His decision to place the figures in the very close foreground, (something that is exceptional within Titian´s oeuvre) bringing the faces of the two men close together on either side of the diagonal created by the cross, intensifies the relationship between them. Titian also prominently depicts the elements that denote Christ´s suffering: the rope around His neck, the crown of thorns, and the drops of blood on His face. The most moving element, however, is Christ´s tearful gaze, directed squarely at the viewer as a plea to join Him. Though this aspect of the composition is unusual in Titian, there were Venetian precedents in the works of Bartolomeo Montagna, Altobello Melone, and, most significantly, Lorenzo Lotto, whose Christ carrying the Cross 1526 (Musée du Louvre, Paris) presents the cross on a diagonal and Christ in the close foreground, His eyes flooded with tears.The painting was acquired in Italy between 1637 and 1642 by the Marquis of Leganés, who gave it to Isidoro Aliaga, the Archbishop of Valencia. In 1666 it is documented as belonging to the Spanish Royal Collections and entered the Museo del Prado (Text drawn from Falomir, M.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 118).


Technical data

Inventory number
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Christ carrying the Cross
Ca. 1565
Height: 67 cm; Width: 77 cm
Collection I Marquess of Leganés, 1652-55, no. 806; Royal Collection (Royal Alcázar, Madrid, "Alcoba de la Galería del Mediodía", 1666, no. 614; Royal Alcázar, Madrid, "Alcoba de la Galería del Mediodía", 1686, no. 291; Royal Alcázar, Madrid, "Alcoba de la Galería del Mediodía", 1700, no. 101; Royal Alcázar, Madrid, 1734, no. 367; Furriera Real, "entre las obras que han pasado al Retiro", 1746, no. 367; Palace of El Buen Retiro, Madrid, "cuarto del infante don Antonio", 1772, no. 367; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de paso al dormitorio de la serenísima infanta-pieza de retrete", 1794, no. 816; New Royal Palace, "Sacristía de la Capilla de las Señoras Camaristas", 1826; Royal Palacel, Sacristía de la Capilla de las Señoras Camaristas, nº 806, 1827).

Bibliography +

Beroqui, P., Tiziano en el Museo del Prado, Boletin de la Sociedad española de excursiones, 35, 1927, pp. 197.

Suida, W, Le Titien, Weber, Paris, 1935, pp. 272.

Beroqui, P, Tiziano en el Museo del Prado, Hauser y Menet, Madrid, 1946, pp. 166.

Wethey, Harold E., The paintings of Titian, I, Phaidon, Londres, 1969, pp. 81.

Pallucchini, Rodolfo, Tiziano, I, G.C. Sansoni, Florencia, 1969, pp. lám. 523.

Cagli, Corrado, La obra pictórica completa de Tiziano, Noguer, Barcelona. Madrid, 1971.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: pintura italiana anterior a 1600, Gredos, Madrid, 1979, pp. 183.

Fasolo, Ugo, Ticiano, Becocci, Florencia, 1980, pp. 82.

Piotrovski, B. Linnik, I., Museo del Ermitage. Pintura de Europa occidental., Aurora, Leningrado, 1984.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 706.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº725.

Tiziano, Marsilio Editori, Venezia, 1990, pp. 355.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Felipe II: mecenas de las artes, Nerea, Madrid, 1992, pp. 250.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Tiziano y la monarquía hispánica: usos y funciones de la pintura veneciana en España (siglos XVI y XVII), Nerea, Madrid, 1994, pp. 258, n. 23.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 216.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, De Tiziano a Bassano. Maestros Venecianos del Museo de Prado, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 1997, pp. 130.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura italiana del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 1999, pp. 184-185.

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2002.

Gentili, Augusto, La pittura religiosa dell'ultimo Tiziano, Studi tizianeschi., 1, 2003, pp. 12/lám. 3.

Falomir Faus, Miguel, Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, pp. 266.

Pérez Preciado, José Juan, El marqués de Leganes y las Artes, Madrid, 2009, pp. 21.

Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese. Rivals in Renaissance Venice, MFA. Distributed Art Publishers, 2009, pp. 100,101,290.

Titien, Tintoret, Veronèse... Rivalités à Venise, Hazan. Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2009.

Pérez Preciado, José Juan, El marqués de Leganes y las Artes, ThD Tesis, Madrid, 2010, pp. 526.

Cranston, Jodi, The muddied mirror. Materiality and figuration in Titian's..., Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010, pp. 47-73 / 12.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 118-119 nº20.

Baker-Bates, Piers, Art and ideology at Juste, Hispanic research journal, Vol. 14 n.5, 2013, pp. 427-445 [437].

Mena Marqués, M.; Albarrán, V., La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, folleto, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 16 n.44.

Mena Marqués, M.; Albarrán, V., Azúa, F. de, La belleza cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado, Museo del Prado - Obra Social ''La Caixa'', Barcelona, 2014, pp. 79.

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 531 nº 784.

Prado captive beauty: treasures from the Prado Museum, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, 2015, pp. n.11.

Other inventories +

Inv. Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1772. Núm. 367.
Quarto del Infante Don Antonio [...] {14556} 367 / Cristo con la cruz a cuestas y Simon Cireneo vara de largo tres quartas de caida original de Ticiano

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 438.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 438.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 487.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 725.
Tiziano / 725. Nuestro señor llevando la cruz / A su lado esta Simon cirineo. (busto con manos) / Alto 2 pies, 4 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 2 pies, 9 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 725.

Inventario colección del I Marqués de Leganés. Núm. 806.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 816.
Pieza de paso al dormitº. de la Sª. Ynfanta [...] Pieza de Retrete [...] {517} 816 / Vara escasa de largo y tres quartas de alto: Cristo con la Cruz acuestas. Escuela de Ticiano: en ... 1500

Inscriptions +

o/nº 14 9
Scrap of paper. Frame, back, upper bar

Scrap of paper. Frame, back, left side bar

Signed. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in golden colour. Frame, back

Exp. Italia Tiziano.
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Interlikene fine arts packers/ titolo dell'opera/ Cristo e il Cireneo Prado-Madrid
Scrap of paper. Frame, back, upper bar

National Gallery of Art Exhibition. Titian . Prince of painters/ 28 oct 90- 27 jan 91
Scrap of paper. Frame, back, lower bar

Nº 438
Scrap of paper. Frame, back, right side bar

Nº 725
Inscribed. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

Captive Beauty. Treasures from The Prado Museum
10.10.2015 - 31.01.2016

Captive Beauty. Small Treasures at the Prado Museum
16.07.2014 - 05.01.2015

Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny
21.05.2013 - 10.11.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice
15.03.2009 - 16.08.2009

10.06.2003 - 07.09.2003

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Pintura veneciana del siglo XVI de las colecciones del Museo del Prado
04.12.1997 - 08.02.1998

Tiziano. V Centenario de su nacimiento
Washington D.C.
28.10.1990 - 27.01.1991

Tiziano. V Centenario de su nacimiento
01.06.1990 - 07.10.1990

Location +

Room 043 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Objects from Christ's Passion

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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