(b. 1472, Venezia, d. 1526, Capodistria)

The Dead Christ

c. 1520
Tempera on canvas, 145 x 185 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The quality of Carpaccio's use of colour and his power of expression and invention decreased in his last religious paintings, for the most part executed by his assistants. But in at least two of his late works, where the subject matter stimulated his imagination, Carpaccio returned to the creative levels of his earlier periods.

The Dead Christ, which in fullness and richness of colour resembles the 1520 Stoning of St Stephen, is a later version of the Meditation on Christ's Passion in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and like it it was mentioned in 1623 in the Collection of Roberto Canonici in Ferrara as being by Andrea Mantegna.

With the light accentuating the waxy pallor of his flesh, Christ is rigidly stretched out on the shiny marble slab, as though suspended in the foreground of the painting. Against the background of the rocky earth a number of symbols of death all relate to Christ's life on earth and suggest the transience of human life: we see the Virgin, supported by Mary Magdalene in front of St John, a mourning figure with his back to the spectator; St Job in meditation leaning against a tree; graves opened and violated, broken and shattered tombstones, columns and slabs.