(b. 1591, Cento, d. 1666, Bologna)

The Dead Christ Mourned by Two Angels

Oil on copper, 39 x 44 cm
National Gallery, London

In this picture, pure red and blue in the angel's sleeve and the sky, and pure white and black paint, are intermixed and blended with an earth colour to produce a wonderful range of ashen violets and misty ochres, against which the body of Christ on his luminous shroud glows like a golden-tinged pearl. The subject is a free version of the traditional Venetian theme of two angels holding up the dead Christ beside his tomb for the viewer's pious meditation; it does not illustrate any biblical text. The wounds of Christ are discreetly suggested. Pathos arises from the juxtaposition of beauty with grief, of close observation in the studio with poetic invention, and the borderline between them is as blurred as the melting contours between flesh and stone, feather and cloud.