(b. 1494, Firenze, d. 1540, Paris)

Descent from the Cross

Oil on wood, 375 x 196 cm
Cathedral, Volterra

In this work the main character is the colour, and the colour is devoted to one end: a violent and emotional expressiveness which overrides everything else, and seeks only to provoke in the spectator a thrill of horror and grief comparable with that which shattered the men and women who helped to lift Christ from the Cross and bury Him.

The drawing is not conceived as a means of describing forms, but as a means of stating ideas. The light is not a normal illumination nor even a poetic evocation: the scene is lit as if by lightning, and in the blinding flash the figures are frozen in their attitudes and even in their thoughts, while the great limp body of the dead Christ, livid green with reddish hair and beard, dangles perilously as his dead weight almost slips from the grasp of the men straining on the ladders.

Rosso too acknowledges, as the Pontormo Deposition does, Michelangelo's Roman Pietà, but the Christ of the Deposition is far more closely connected with a drawing for a Pietà which Michelangelo made about 1519-20, and which haunted Rosso to the end of his life.