TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)


Oil on canvas, 137 x 175 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

In the Entombment, the broader and more open brushwork that Titian was now developing serves to trap the light and add a torrid and glittering intensity to the colours. The dead weight of Christ's body is accentuated by collapsing the rhythm of the figures towards the left, resisted only by the bearded figure of Nicodemus. The latter has Titian's features, as if the artist wanted to allocate to himself a responsible role in the burial process, just as Michelangelo had portrayed himself as Nicodemus in his unfinished Pietà of c. 1550 in Florence Cathedral. The Gospels describe Christ's tomb as being excavated out of rock, but in Titian's interpretation it takes the form of a classical sarcophagus decorated with the Christian themes of Cain and Abel and the Sacrifice of Isaac - Old Testament events considered to prefigure the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The corner of the sarcophagus projects into the very front of the picture plane in a cutting analogy of the disciples' grief.

The motif of the Virgin holding the limp arm of Christ is inspired by Raphael's Entombment in the Villa Borghese and perhaps also by Aretino's Humanity of Christ.