CARDUCHO, Bartolomé
(b. 1554, Firenze, d. 1608, Madrid)

Death of St Francis

Oil on canvas, 115 x 153 cm
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

In this extraordinary picture, which demonstrates both his indebtness to Florentine colleagues and his great importance to the formation of a new style of religious painting at Spanish court, Carducho builds a moving, humanized narrative on the armature of the classical style.The composition is nearly symmetrical, the figures carefully drawn and posed, the gestures and expressions exquisitely calibrated to evince deep, internalised grief. Even more than his Florentine models, Carducho individualizes the physical traits of the figures. The rough, appealing humanity of the Franciscans seems to be the artist's response to Spanish taste for a new realism in devotional pictures which would only increase in the years to come.

Carducho's potent use of light is another notable element: it intensifies the presence of the figures and glances off the inanimate objects, endowing each with a characteristic texture. The saint's scuffed, worn sandals, an earthenware chamber-pot, a bowl of thin broth, a tawny human skull, and an hourglass with the sands of time running out - all are depicted with an authentic feel that draws the viewer into the unfolding drama of the saint's pious death.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 33 minutes):
Michael Haydn: St Francis Mass