FRANCESCO DI GIORGIO MARTINI
(b. 1439, Siena, d. 1502, Siena)

Deposition from the Cross

c. 1477
Bronze, 86 x 75 cm
Santa Maria del Carmine, Venice

Francesco's first commission for Urbino was a bronze relief, in which the influence of Donatello is evident. Much earlier, between 1457 and 1462, the great Florentine sculptor had made several visits to Siena, declaring his purpose 'to live and die there'; his late style, with its vibrant surface and tormented figures, left a permanent impact on the sculpture both of Vecchietta and his young pupil. In Francesco's Deposition, his sculptural masterpiece, the cross stands bare against the expanse of naked bronze 'sky' - a heavily patinated brown plane, only lightly ruffled by darting angels. Far below, the crowd is modelled in much deeper relief, tremulous forms of hair and drapery reflecting a broken light; while the beautiful corpse of Christ is a fully three-dimensional classical nude. The two wild women at the foot of the cross seem almost to dance their rhythmic grief. Yet the Sienese trecento is also still present, most obviously in the veiled matrons seated in mourning.

The relief originally was part of a small altarpiece in the Oratorio di Santa Croce in Urbino.