(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)

Crucifixion and Descent from the Cross

San Lorenzo, Florence

The depictions of the two central events from the Crucifixion and Descent from the Cross (or Lamentation) are placed side by side to form a long side of the Passion Pulpit. The reliefs are extraordinary in their expressionistic, occasionally violent, portrayal of these events.

In the Crucifixion the crosses are placed parallel to the image plane. The crucified figures are coarse and modelled with little nuance. According to Pope-Hennessy, it is likely that no model of Donatello was used for this, but rather it is a work of Bellano.

Much more interesting is the Descent from the Cross to the right of the Crucifixion. Here the three crosses were placed at an angle of 45 degrees on the image plane and largely cut off. In the middle is the ladder with which Christ was removed from the cross. The two thieves are strangely cut off: the thief on the left just above the knee and the other one has no visible head.

At the bottom of the cross, Donatello places a strong emphasis on the whole range of human reactions to death. There are three women who walk with their hands in the air, hands in despair and a woman on the far right is clutching her head. These women are based on the classic images of Menades. At the bottom right lies a figure that is completely exhausted by emotions. This figure is based on the reliefs of classical river gods. On the right, by the ladder, an old man with a beard, Nicodemus, stares in disbelief at the nails of Christ that he holds in his hand. Through the ladder, behind Mary, John can be seen with his head turned away from the dead Christ. To the left of John on the other side of the cross stands the man who commissioned these reliefs: Cosimo the Old. The lady to his left with a veil is his wife.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.