The Power of Narrative Painting
Much has been written about Jacopo Ligozzi’s Christ Carrying the Cross, a dramatic narrative portrayal of Christ surrounded by his persecutors and onlookers on the way to Calvary. I did not understand the power of this painting until studying the enlarged details in the face of Christ. With close proximity, I cease to be a bystander who can choose to look away. This painting tells a story which can be read in the eyes of Jesus. While I look at this enlarged detail,
Who Created This Masterpiece?
One of the most prolific artists of the 1600s in Florence, Jacopo Ligozzi (1547–1627) is an Italian painter, illustrator, designer, and miniaturist whose style can be categorized as late-Renaissance and Mannerist.
After a period under the employment of the Habsburg family in Vienna, Jacopo Ligozzi [moves] to Florence circa 1576 where, swiftly recognized for his exceptional talent, he [is] engaged by the Medici… hired primarily as a draftsman, documenting flora and fauna from the gardens and menageries of the Medici with extraordinary naturalism and detail…. He [remains] in Florence under the patronage of the Medici family for the duration of his career. (Sotheby’s)
‘Christ Carrying the Cross’
Dated 1604, Christ Carrying the Cross is a dramatic painting by Jacopo Ligozzi, who signs at the base of the cross “with his initials I-L interlinked with a hyphen and surmounted with a cross, as an open declaration of his faith.” (Sotheby’s)
During this decade, Ligozzi concentrates on scenes from the Passion, and to appeal to the Florentine Counter-Reformation, he chooses more somber subjects. According to Sotheby’s, “… his scenes and his intensely expressive figures [set} him apart from the ostentatious Baroque style fashionable in contemporary Florence.”
The catalogue continues:
The dynamism of the guard’s stride,,,and the chaotic crowd of faces and limbs are interposed by the figure of Christ, his meek expression creating a chastening calm that pervades the scene. The figure to the right of the cross, wearing a red hat and holding a spear, earnestly meets the viewers gaze, drawing us into the crowded scene and involving us directly in Christ’s suffering. (Sotheby’s)
“The figure to the right of the cross,
wearing a red hat and holding a spear,
earnestly meets the viewers gaze,
drawing us into the crowded scene and
involving us directly in Christ’s suffering.”
A Story Told By Details
“[Ligozzi’s] skill for replicating details from life is demonstrated in this painting through the realism of textures and surfaces, the naturalism of the guard’s bare forearm and the almost still life quality of the woven twigs in the crown of thorns.
Consider the following details:
- the twigs in the crown of thorns
- the bare forearm of the guard
- the texture of each surface (metal, wood, cloth, skin)
- the weapons
- the guard’s clothing, armor, and doublet
- the tasseled cords
- the highly decorative pommel of the sword
- the glossy fabric
- the emotion written on each face
Click for Enlarged Detail
Slideshow best viewed At Sunnyside
- Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:JACOPO LIGOZZI VERONA 1547 – 1627 FLORENCE CHRIST CARRYING THE CROSS.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.or/w/index.php?title=File:JACOPO_LIGOZZI_VERONA_1547_-_1627_FLORENCE_CHRIST_CARRYING_THE_CROSS.jpg&oldid=225969958 (accessed October 27, 2018).
- Sotheby’s, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2013/old-master-paintings-n08952/lot.52.html, (accessed 26 Oct 2018).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Mannerism,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mannerism&oldid=868733339 (accessed December 10, 2018).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Jacopo Ligozzi,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacopo_Ligozzi&oldid=870896316 (accessed December 10, 2018).
As a stylistic label, “Mannerism” is not easily defined, but you may read more by following the link.
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