(b. ca. 1484, Pordenone, d. 1539, Ferrara)

Carrying the Cross

Cathedral, Cremona

The early decades of the sixteenth century in Cremona were some of the most turbulent in its political history. In these years of constantly changing foreign rulers, the local leaders of Cremona pursued an elaborate project of decoration with remarkable consistency. From 1506 to 1522 the community had the chancel and nave of the twelve-century cathedral frescoed. By continuing the decoration through all the changes in government, the community represented its own identity; it was an act of local self-assertion.

The decoration was begun in the semi-dome vault of the apse in 1506. Boccaccio Boccaccino depicted, following a time-honoured scheme, the Epiphany of God in the Last Days (Christ in Majesty) as the principal and culminating image within the church space. Later, in 1514 Boccaccino received the commission to begin a fresco cycle of the life of Mary and Christ on the walls of the nave. They begin on the left wall, running from the façade to the apse and then on the right wall from the apse back to the façade. The left wall is dedicated to Mary and Christ's childhood; the right to the Passion.

Boccaccino painted the scenes above the first four arches of the nave, and Giovan Francesco Bembo had been active above the fifth arch. He was not awarded another commission, the fresco cycle was continued by the Cremonese artist Altobello Melone. He painted the scenes above the next arch, and continued the cycle on the right wall, where he painted five scenes of the Passion above the three arches next to the apse.

Romanino was commissioned for the next four scenes of the Passion on the right wall. In December 1519 he was commissioned to fresco the three remaining bays of the nave as well. However, the contract was revoked in 1520 and it was awarded to Pordenone. Above each arch there is just one broad field in which he painted Pilate Judges Christ; Carrying the Cross; Christ Nailed to the Cross. In each composition an immense, dense, violent jostling of figures is developed in a relief-like style and from a viewpoint slightly below the action.

The narrative folds into the wall of the façade, where the trilogy of the procession to Calvary comes to a close in the enormous fresco of the Golgotha by Pordenone.