Description & Technical information
In keeping with a model that was central to counter-reformation and Baroque painting, the scene of this picture is presented from a very close-up perspective to involve the viewer intimately in contemplation of Christ’s Passion. The composition is placed entirely in the foreground and, for this reason, we can appreciate completely the contrast between the luminous suffering face of Christ and the threatening heads of the tormentors in the shadows immediately behind his well modelled torso.
It is through the artist’s heartfelt emotive interpretation of this chapter in the life of Christ that the viewer is struck by the unconventionally moving and dignified expression of sorrow of the mocked Saviour. The artist concentrates on touching details such as the half-closed eyes and mouth, the rivlets of blood that follow the lines of the forehead to form large droplets streaking the face along the temples and the hair which falls down to the shoulders.
The Mocking of Christ has long been part of the modern critical discussion of the Lombard painter Daniele Crespi (c. 1597-1598 – 1630), the clearly recognisable and well accepted author of the present work. Giorgio Nicodemi reproduced the painting in his two monographic studies published in 1914 and 1930 when the picture was owned by the Casati Stampa di Soncino, a noble family from Lombardy. How the work entered their collection remains unclear, but it is known when it left – after the sale of part of the Casati Stampa di Soncino properties through Christie’s, Rome (in May 1981), following which it entered the collection of Stefano Ferrario in Busto Arsizio.
Daniele Crespi frequently depicted themes of the Passion of Christ in paintings for altars of churches in Federico Borromeo’s archdiocese or, as in this case, paintings for private devotion. Notwithstanding the documented relationship between Crespi and Giovanni Battista Crespi, called Cerano, his teacher at the Accademia Ambrosiana around 1620 – 1621, in none of those dramatic works do we see the macabre tones and pronounced theatricality that have long been recognised as characteristic of the older artist from Novara, a leading figure in the period of the ‘pestanti’ – the artists born between the plagues that struck Milan in 1575 and 1630. This appears evident in this vibrant work with its very controlled composition which, on first blush, prompts comparisons with painters such as Ribera, Caravaggesque naturalists, and even Cerano, but which on more careful analysis compares with the more formal and stiffer works of the Caraccis.
The present painting, which Nicodemi believed to be from the final period of Crespi's career, actually belongs to the early experimental years and precedes a series of more academic and diligent works on the theme of the Passion, such as the Ecce Homo in the Suida-Manning Collection (now in the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas) (Inv. no. 198.1999) and the Flagellation of Christ in the Museo del Prado, Madrid (Inv. no. P120). In order to place this painting in a timeframe, it should be compared with two other masterpieces from the early 1620s: the Flagellation of Christ in the National Musuem, Warsaw (Acc. no. M.Ob.1139 (128860)) and the similar painting, formerly in the Crespi Collection in Milan, which was shown in the Busto Arsizio exhibition (see Bolandrini, op. cit., pp. 246-247, no. 32). It was, in fact, that painting, formerly in the Crespi Collection, and not the present Mocking of Christ, that Frangi (op. cit.) referred to in an incorrectly cited reference in the entry published in the catalogue for the 1989 Busto Arsizio exhibition.
We are grateful to Dr. Alessandro Morandotti, Università degli Studi di Torino, for confirming the attribution to Daniele Crespi based on first hand examination of the work.
Date: 1621 – 1622
Period: 1600-1750, 17th century
Medium: Oil on panel
Signature: Inscribed verso:
'Daniele Crespi / C. Casati'
Dimensions: 56 x 43 cm (22 x 16⁷/₈ inches)
Provenance: Collection Casati Stampa, Soncino
Christie’s, Rome, 26 – 27 May 1981, lot 160
Collection Stefano Ferrario, Busto Arsizio
Collection Roberto Ferrario, Busto Arsizio
Literature: G. Nicodemi, Daniele Crespi (Busto Arsizio, 1914), p. 25
G. Nicodemi, Daniele Crespi (Busto Arsizio, 1930), p. 131
G. Bora, under ‘Crespi, Daniele’ in Dizionario Biografico degli italiani, Vol. XXX (Rome, 1984), p. 698
G. Paciarotti, Il pittore Daniele Crespi (Busto Arsizio, 1988), pp. 12-13
F. Frangi in G. Testori and F. Frangi (eds.), Daniele Crespi nelle raccolte private, exhibition catalogue (Milan, 1989), p. 22
N. Ward Neilson, Daniele Crespi (Soncino, 1996), pp. 60-61, no. 58, fig. 5B
B. Bolandrini in A. Spiriti (ed.), Daniele Crespi. Un grande pittore del Seicento lombardo, exhibition catalogue (Milan, 2006), pp. 218-219
J. Stoppa, ‘La morte del Seicento Lombardo’ in Prospettiva, Vols. 119-120, (2007), p. 186
Exhibitions: Palazzo Marliani Cicogna, Busto Arsizio, ‘Daniele Crespi. Un grande pittore del Seicento lombardo’, 29 April – 25 June 2006, no. 14
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints
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