BELLINI, Giovanni
(b. ca. 1426, Venezia, d. 1516, Venezia)

Dead Christ in the Sepulchre (Pietà)

c. 1460
Tempera on panel, 48 x 38 cm
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

In Bellini's work the Pietà of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo and that of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan are the prototypes of a series of variants showing the body of the dead Christ over the sarcophagus, with his head bowed and his hands positioned as if for burial. This is an iconography that originated in Constantinople, even if in Italy it was thought to derive from a famous miraculous Roman mosaic-icon, the one of Santa Croce in Jerusalem, which according to legend had appeared during Mass to Pope Gregory the Great.

The painting in the Museo Poldo-Pezzoli, stylistically very close to the Dead Christ representation in the Museo Correr in Venice, is signed as "IOANNES BELLINVS". It is pervaded by a poignant and highly personal lyricism, which has the effect of transfiguring the divine drama into an expression of intense giref and infinite melancholy.