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The Descent from the Cross
Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico
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Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico

Venice (Italy), 1727 - Venice (Italy), 1804

See author's file

The Descent from the Cross

1772. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Painted in Venice, the painting is part of the series of eight scenes from the Passion of Christ comprising works P00355 to P00362. They came from the Convent of San Felipe Neri in Madrid, from where they were transferred to the Museo de la Trinidad. We have little knowledge of the conditions laid down in the contract (if one ever existed) by the secular clerics of San Felipe Neri in Madrid. Therefore, we have not been able to document any eventual limitations in terms of format, total number of scenes, size, etc. However, it appears that these limitations must have existed and they meaningfully conditioned the artist´s work. This fact can be deduced from the very low viewpoint adopted and the deformed proportions of some of the figures, especially the legs of Christ himself. An aspect that, in canvases such as The Descent from the Cross (P00361), is somewhat displeasing. The reason for such representation lies in the fact that this series was conceived as an overdoor. Otherwise, the possible need to place them in a high place was kept in mind from the beginning, in order to allow a large group of the faithful to contemplate this painting simultaneously, as is done in the Stations of the Cross. Nevertheless, this is not strictly the case.

There is another characteristic of this series, which gives the whole series a strong personality. This is due either to limitations of a contract that has not yet been found, or to other circumstances. Indeed, it may be explained by the creation of a deliberately claustrophobic atmosphere by Giandomenico, unlike other canvases by this artist portraying similar themes. On this scene, he sought to create an almost unbreathable sense of drama, even though the narrative takes place outdoors. With this purpose in mind, he piled up the characters essential to the drama in the foreground, as well as a few others, but not many. This piling creates an unsettling atmosphere that invites us to reflect on the events depicted. This, the artificial gradient of colours, the theatrical props and the almost expressionistic value of some of the faces, confer the whole scene a deliberately unreal atmosphere. It takes us, at the same time, to an event of special religious significance and incomparable dramatic possibilities. This is perhaps the most important characteristic of the whole series. The combination of all the technical and expressive resources to reach a dramatic atmosphere, which would be alien to the world created by the Tiepolos, apparently more capable of creating ‘effects’ than of stimulating ‘feelings.’

Colour is another resource masterfully used by the artist to influence the viewer´s mood. It is clear that no attempt was ever made to reproduce a real scene. An example of this is, once again, the canvas of The Descent from the Cross (P00361), in which the dramatic effect is magnified by the use of strongly contrasting colours. One might almost say violently contrasting colours: orange, blue, red or green without gradient between them, which intensely ‘oppose’ large surfaces of icy ivory, used for the faces of the female figures and Christ himself, already dead. Other figures intensively enhance the creation of this unbreathable atmosphere. This is exemplified by the face of one of the two thieves, which is depicted almost without drawing, with light-coloured patches of an almost expressionist quality. Better mention shall receive that of Mary Magdalene, who is undoubtedly the figure that best summarises the desolation and sadness that pervades the whole series.

Luna, Juan José, Pintura europea del siglo XVIII: guía, Madrid, Museo del Prado, 1997, p.145-148


Technical data

Inventory number
Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico
The Descent from the Cross
Height: 124 cm; Width: 142 cm
Serie de la Pasión de Cristo para San Felipe Neri (Madrid)
Convent of San Felipe Neri, of the Philippian Oratorians, formerly Professed House of Saint Francis Borgia, of the Jesuits, Madrid; Convent of Santa Teresa, Madrid; adquired in 1875.

Bibliography +

Mariuz, Adriano, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Alfieri, Venecia, 1965, pp. lám.238.

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

Knox, George, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. Vol. I. Text, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 305.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 683-684.

Anatra, Bruno, Venezia e la Spagna, Electa, Milan, 1988.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº265.

Luna, Juan José, Pintura europea del siglo XVIII: guía, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1997, pp. 145-148.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo de la Trinidad en el Prado, El Museo de la Trinidad en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 136 / 24.

Giandomenico Tiepolo y sus retratos de fantasía: el artista en la Corte, Banca March, 2014, pp. 55.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 2132.
2132.-(265-K.)-El Descendimiento.-La Virgen María está en primer término desmayada al pié de la cruz y sostenida por San Juan.-Compañero de los seis anteriores. / Véase la nota al núm.. 2126. / Alto 1,42; ancho 1,21.-L.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 265.
265 / Autor = [sobreescrito a lápiz= "Tiepolo"] / Lienzo = El Descendimiento de la Cruz. / Alto 1,42 ancho 1,21 figs. / [Al margen izquierdo=] Yd. Yd. Yd. [Procede de la incautacion de cuadros del ex-convento de Sto. Domingo de Madrid - dispuesta pr. el Poder Ejecutivo fcha. 5 Junio 1869. [sobreescrito a lápiz= "(de las Teresas)"] // [Con otra grafía y a lápiz=] (Debuelto a las Teresas; por Orden Superior fha 30 Setiembre 1875)

Inscriptions +

[Sello a tinta muy distorsionado; en el centro se adivina un báculo]
Black ink stamp. Back, upper left corner

Convto. de Sta. Teresa - / Madrid no. 265 -
Painted. Back, upper right corner

Exhibitions +

Museo de la Trinidad
19.07.2004 - 03.10.2004

Displayed objects +

Lances / Spears


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

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