This exceptional painting is an extremely rare pictorial proof by the greatest exponent of the European Baroque, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, bearing on the back – clearly and visibly – the signature of the author and the year it waspainted, 1636. He was a sculptor and architect, celebrated by both his contemporaries and modern critics. His pictorial activity was always sporadic and was used mainly as a mean of learning and synthesizing the innovations in painting produced by his contemporaries. Encouraged to practice painting by Urban VIII, who wanted a universalartist like Buonarroti at his court, Bernini always shunned large public decorations, preferring sporadic small canvases, mainly portraits. Although he also took part in important painting commissions, such as the famous Vatican canvas of the Martyrdom of St. Maurice, painted in collaboration with Carlo Pellegrini, Gian Lorenzo painted almost exclusively for personal interest and study; this choice helps us greatlyin understanding his pictorial modelsof reference, the colleagues he most esteemed, admired and studied.
Looking at this painting, therefore, it is possible to recognise a certain naturalistic taste rooted both in Caravaggio’s experience in Rome and in the impact of Velazquez’s stay in the city. It is precisely in comparison with the Spanish painter that Bernini directed most of his efforts: the line is moved, vibrant, almost nervous in the construction of elements such as the horizontal axis of the cross and the limbs of Christ. It is an intense work, with a private character, which expresses with great confidence – also in the rendering of the landscape, deep but essential – thegreat drama that this event represents.
Bibl.: T. Montanari, Bernini pittore, Silvana Editore, 2007, ad vocem.