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Jesus carrying the Cross
Piombo, Sebastiano del
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Piombo, Sebastiano del

Venice, 1485 - Rome, 1547

Piombo, Sebastiano del See author's file

Jesus carrying the Cross

Ca. 1516. Oil on canvas.
Room 049

Jerónimo Vich y Valterra (1459-1535) was Spain’s ambassador to Rome between 1506 and 1521, under the reigns of Ferdinand the Catholic and Charles V. Vich commissioned Sebastiano del Piombo to paint a triptych whose central panel with the Lamentation over the Body of Christ is now at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. One of its sides bears Christ’s Descent into Limbo and is also at the Museo del Prado (P346). The triptych dates from 1516, the year King Ferdinand died. At that time, Vich expected to be relieved of his post in Rome and was preparing to return to Valencia. In fact, he would not do so for another five years. Vich’s friendship with Pope Leon X and Piombo’s closeness to the latter may explain this first contact between the painter and his Spanish clientele. The fact that Jesus Carrying the Cross belonged to Jerónimo Vich suggests it dates from around 1516, a decisive year in del Piombo’s career. Besides these paintings, he was commissioned by Giulio de’ Medici to paint The Resurrection of Lazarus (National Gallery, London) which was intended to compete with Raphahel’s Transfiguration (Musei Vaticani). Giulio’s commissions generated a well-known rivalry between the two painters and, according to Giorgio Vasari, Michelangelo helped Piombo by supplying him with drawings. While there is no evidence that he did so for this work, the Florentine sculptor’s influence is patent, especially in the monumental treatment of Christ’s body. Del Piombo also reveals his Venetian training in his use of color with symbolic and dramatic intentions and his subtle handling of transparencies and glazes. Piombo’s approach to the passage from the Gospel was certainly unusual. Rather than setting the scene on the Via Dolorosa, as was customary, he placed it indoors, making this one of the few depictions of Christ taking the cross at Pilate’s palace, surrounded by henchmen and soldiers. The change of settings in no way diminishes the dramatic force of this scene, which transmits a powerful sense of anguish by concentrating the figures of Christ, a henchman and a soldier in the foreground. The composition opens to the right through a large window that offers a view of the entourage leaving Jerusalem en route to Golgotha via a Roman-style arch of triumph. Jesus Carrying the Cross is painted on extremely fine canvas, which allowed Piombo to achieve a degree of detail and qualities resembling panel paintings. His mastery in rendering faces and hands was highly praised by Vasari and is one of the reasons for his success as a portrait painter. Here, that skill is clear in the figure of the henchman, as well as that of Christ. The latter must have been especially successful, as Piombo repeatedly returned to depictions of Christ and the cross, isolating the figure from any narrative context (P348). Jerónimo Vich made this work a part of his family’s heritage, but in 1645 his great grandson, Diego Vich, delivered it to Philip IV as payment for certain debts. It then entered the sacristy at El Escorial, where it remained until it was moved to the Museo del Prado in 1839.

Museo Nacional del Prado, 100 obras maestras: del Museo del Prado, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p.62

Technical data

Related artworks

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Inventory number
Piombo, Sebastiano del
Jesus carrying the Cross
Ca. 1516
Height: 121 cm; Width: 100 cm
Royal Collection (Monastery of El Escorial, Madrid, Sacristy, 1656-1839).

Bibliography +

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Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del Rey, Madrid, 1834, pp. 28.

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Justi, Carl1832-1912, Diego Velazquez Und Sein Jahrhundert. Vol. I, II, Verlag Friedrich Cohen, Bonn, 1922, pp. 224.

Della Pergola, Paola, Galleria Borghese. I dipinti, II, Roma, 1959, pp. 133-134.

Larsen, Erik, A contribution to Sebastiano del Piombo's changing conception of ''Christ carrying the Cross'', L'Arte. Rivista di Storia dell'Arte, 25, 1960, pp. 3-15.

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Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 228.

Ferino-Pagden, Sylvia, Vittoria Colonna. Dichterin und Muse Michelangelos, Skira, Milano, 1997.

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Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 345.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 345.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 395.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 779.
Sebastian del Piombo / 779. Jesus llevando la cruz ayudado por el cirineo. (medias figuras.) (E.) / Alto 4 pies, 4 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 7 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 779.

Exhibitions +

15.03.2017 - 25.06.2017

Sebastiano del Piombo
28.06.2008 - 28.09.2008

Sebastiano del Piombo
07.02.2008 - 02.06.2008

Arte y cultura del Renacimiento en el Vaticano. De Julio II a Clemente
01.12.1998 - 01.03.1999

Vittoria Colonna. La musa di Michelangelo
25.02.1997 - 25.05.1997

Location +

Room 049 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Objects from Christ's Passion



Update date: 21-01-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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