SANSOVINO, Jacopo
(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1570, Venezia)

Descent from the Cross

c. 1513 (modelled)
Gilt wax and wood, 98 x 90 cm (overall)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Christ is shown at the centre, being lowered from the Cross. The two thieves have already been taken down. To the right, two men stagger under the weight of one of them, while the penitent thief is caught on the ladder that leans against his cross. The swooning figure of the Virgin is attended by two of the Marys and St John. The 'instruments of the Passion' (a hammer, pincers and the Crown of Thorns) lie on the ground.

There are many figures in this lively crucifixion scene, which for the first time includes the deposition of the two thieves. There is a particular pathos in the contrast between the lifeless bodies of the crucified and their agitated helpers. Four of them are lowering the body of Christ from the cross, and two others are carrying the good thief away to the right. On the left, Mary Magdalene, John and another woman have come to the aid of Mary, who has fainted. At the bottom, isolated from the three groups around him, the body of the bad thief is hanging from the ladder.

While Sansovino made use of classical models for his execution of individual figures, he was also creating a new type of deposition which influenced later artists.

According to Vasari, this model was made for Perugino. Copies of a lost Perugino painting, clearly based on the present model, still survive.