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Work Crucifixion

Department of Paintings: Italian painting


© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Italian painting

Cécile Maisonneuve, Dominique Thiébaut

In this highly charged vision of the Crucifixion Giovanni Bellini seems to be cutting free of the influence, so marked in his early work, of his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna. Here a personal, thoroughly lyrical style is apparent in the delicate handling of the light and the harmonious blending of figures and landscape.

The Crucifixion

Set on a domed mound, the Cross stands out against a landscape that includes, on the right, the ramparts of a city. The dead Christ is flanked by his mother and St John. On the left, the Virgin in her blue cloak is shown full face, one arm extended with the hand open. On the right St John is turned towards Christ, hands clasped; his mouth is slightly open, as if in a sigh.

Bellini and Mantegna

This work shows a Giovanni Bellini still indebted to the pictorial language of his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). Echoes are to be found in the domed shape of the mound on which the Cross is raised - as in the Mantegna Crucifixion in the Louvre - and even more so in the clinging folds and wrinkles of the garments. Nonetheless Bellini seems to have emancipated himself from the kind of imitation of Mantegna that led him, in about 1460, to create his own version (now in the Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia, Venice) of the latter's Presentation in the Temple (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). Here we see the artist distancing himself from this influence in a gentler, more integrated treatment of landscape and, especially, in the dramatic handling of the light radiating from Christ's body.

A lyrical high point

Gradually relinquishing Mantegna's classicism, Bellini achieves here a "lyrical high point" as he sets out down the path that will lead him, around 1470, to the intensely poetic Pietà now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. The Louvre Crucifixion is dated to between 1465-70, also the period of the great St. Vincent Ferrar Polyptych in the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice.

Technical description

  • Giovanni BELLINI (c. 1430 - Venice, 1516)


    c. 1465-70

  • H. 0.71 m; W. 0.63 m

  • Acquired in 1970 , 1970

    R.F. 1970-39

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Grande Galerie
    Room 710, 712, 716

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