CESARI, Giuseppe
(b. 1568, Arpino, d. 1640, Roma)

The Mocking of Christ

c. 1598
Oil on canvas, 128 x 100 cm
Chiesa dei Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari, Rome

Today Cavaliere d'Arpino's (Cesari's) Mocking of Christ is virtually forgotten, but in the mid-seventeenth century the biographer Giovanni Baglione considered it to be one of the artist's very finest pictures. Considering Cavaliere d'Arpino's tremendous output, this was not faint praise. When Baglione saw the painting, it was already in the sacristy of the church, where it had been bequeathed by Antonio della Valle along with three other pictures. Hung high on the wall then, as now, the figure of Christ has a commanding presence. A sharp, intense light falls across his powerfully modelled body, while his three tormentors are pushed into the dark recesses of the corners. Christ, suffering at the hands of three assailants who are given highly individual features, can be linked to a well-known iconographic tradition. In this case, however, the compression of the figures towards the picture plane creates a devotional image that evokes both torment and compassion without overt reference to time or space. The truthful descriptiveness of Christ's body superficially recalls the naturalism of Caravaggio, but Cavaliere d'Arpino's clarity of form and classic beauty is, in truth, more allied to the work of Annibale Carracci. In works such as The Mocking of Christ Cavaliere d'Arpino, like Annibale Carracci, moves the High Renaissance style of Raphael towards a baroque eloquence that will ultimately find its true fruition in Guido Reni.