(b. 1477, Vercelli, d. 1549, Siena)
Deposition from the Cross1510-13
Oil on panel, 426 x 263 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
The apparent rivalry between Sodoma and Beccafumi, already suggested in their work in the Oratory of San Bernardino and their paintings of Saint Catherine, is evident in a number of innovative altarpieces produced by the two painters for the Siena's principal churches. Although both painters were commissioned to execute altarpieces that represented the theme of the Virgin and Christ Child enthroned with saints, they also produced a series of narrative altarpieces which pushed beyond the conventional boundaries for the representation of these subjects.
The earliest of these works was Sodoma's monumental altarpiece of the Deposition of Christ. Still within its blue and gold wooden frame and with its predella, this painting is now housed within Siena's Pinacoteca and is therefore divorced from the surroundings for which it was designed. From descriptions of the altarpiece in the sixteenth-century, it seems that it was commissioned for the altar of the Cinuzzi family in the church of San Francesco, and the family's coat-of-arms accordingly appears at either end of the predella. Sodoma's altarpiece thus once stood over the fifth altar along the south wall of this barn-like mendicant church. By virtue of its imposing size, its bright and luminous colours and its clear, expressive figurative composition, the altarpiece would undoubtedly have been a striking sight in its setting.