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P.18 Dead Christ Attended by Four Angels (Pietà)

P.18 Dead Christ Attended by Four Angels (Pietà).

c. 1526

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, no. 58.527.

Panel (linden?), 133.5 x 104.1 Signed on the sarcophagus at the lower right: RVBEVS / FLO / FACIEBAT.

Fig.P.18a
Fig.P.18b bw, Christ’s head
Fig.P.18c bw, angel’s head
Fig.P.18d bw, Christ’s foot

The panel was slightly bowed, and, when owned by the Bourbon rulers of Spain, had been thinned to one-fourth of an inch and had been cradled; the cracks were filled with glue.  There are several fine vertical cracks, including two at the upper right in front of the face of the right angel, one running the length of the panel through Christ’s left thigh, and one from the top through his left shoulder to his hip. There is also a crack from top to bottom running through the corner of the left angel’s mouth.  There are minor losses along the edges and in the corners that have been filled.  The whole right side of Christ in shadow, and his hair in shadow, have either been rubbed or the pigment has darkened causing these parts to appear quite inert and illegible.  The background and the drapery beneath Christ appear to have darkened.  Finely spaced crackle is very evident particularly in the light areas and the very dark areas.  But in general, the surface of the painting is very well preserved.  Franklin, 1994, 142, notes that the surface is slightly worn in the shadows along Christ’s left side and at his left hand, and in the upper right sleeve of the candle-bearing angel at the left.  The picture was cleaned for Wildenstein’s in New York in 1957 by Suhr.  In 1990 conservation work was done by Giovanni Marussich at which time the cradle and clue fills were removed, and flexible battens were positioned on the back.

Christ’s flesh is tan, and gray in the shadows, as distinct from the pink tones of the angels.  His lips and wound are gray-lavender; his hair and beard are red.  The angel at the left wears a ruby red cloak over a dark green undergarment; his sash is light blue with yellow-white highlights.  His wing is lavender spotted with dark red. The second angel’s garments are visible only at his wrist where his hand touches Christ’s wound; the sleeve is orange over a white cuff.  At the far right the angel’s dress changes from turquoise to orange and lavender, with a triangle of dull green at the throat; the decorations simulate gold; a puff of gray and white material at his left elbow.  Sash dark orange and tan.  In the lower part of his garment the lavender becomes dark and red-brown in the shadows.  His wing is dark blue green.  Between the two angels’ heads at the right appears a small passage of dark green and ruby red of the garment of the angel in the background.  The drapery beneath Christ is dark blue.  The candles are white; the sarcophagus is red brown.  The steps at the bottom are dark gray.

DOCUMENT: see below under PROVENANCE.

PROVENANCE: Generally recognized as the picture mentioned by Vasari (see below) as having been painted in Rome for Leonardo Tornabuoni, the Bishop of Borgo Sansepolcro (died probably in Rome in 1540, where he wrote his will on 6 September that year; see Stefaniak, 1992, 716, and Franklin, 1994, 139).  On its earlier locations, see below.  In the 1550 edition of the Lives as owned by Giovanni della Casa (died in Rome; his mother was a Tornabuoni); in the 1568 edition as owned by the heirs of Giovanni della Casa.2 Disappeared until the early nineteenth century when, according to the sales catalogue of 1902 (see below) it was purchased in Italy by the Infant Don Sebastian de Bourbon y Braganza (d.1875); passed to his widow, the Infante Marie Christine de Bourbon (d.1902).  Sold, Madrid, 1902 (see catalogue below), but bought back by the family; then passed to the Infant Don Enrique Bourbon, cousin of Alfonso XII, King of Spain. New York, Wildenstein’s, 1957.  Acquired by the museum in 1958, Charles Potter King Fund.

Something of the early history of Rosso’s painting can be obtained from the following document, published and commented upon by Franklin in 1989, of 23 September 1527 in Borgo Sansepolcro, in which Rosso appointed as his special procurator Lodovico Bruschi da Reggio to go to Rome and bring back the picture from Sister Maria Maddalena, a Florentine, in the convent of S. Lorenzo “in Colonna:” A.S.F., Notarile Antecosimiano, ex-G766, Pompeo di Jacopo Guelfi da Borgo San Sepolcro, 1527, fols. 129v–130r:

Dictis anno [1527] indictione et pontificatu, die vero 29 Septembris.  Actum in civitate Sancti Sepulcri, in domo Bernardini Nicolai de Pichis, sita iuxta bone Camilli et Rodulfi Hieronimi de Pichis et stratam publicam a duobus, et alios fines, presentibus Angelo Baptiste de Pichonibus et magistro Rafaele Michelangeli del Colle, de dicta civitate, testibus ad infrascripta specialiter vocatis, habitis et rogatis.

Dominus Rubeus olim Iacopi Guasparis de civitate Florentie, pictor, no vi, dolo etc., sed sponte etc., per se suos heredes etc. fecit et consituit eius verum et legittimum procuratorem, actorem, factorem, certum nuncium specialem et mandatarium et quicauid melius dici excogitari potest, Lodovicum Iohannis Antonii Bruschi de Reggio, licet absentemi tanquam presentem, specialiter et nominatim ad notificandum, intimandum et protestandum venerabili domine sorori Marie Magdalene de civitate Florentie, sorori monasterii S. Laurentii in Colonna alme urbis Rome, que soror, ut dixit dictus constituens, habet in manu et potestate sua quasdam res dicti constituentis et specialiter unum quadrum lignaminis, ornatumi picturis, et in quo inest picta figura domini nostri Iesu Christi in forma Pietatis, cum quibusdam Angelis circumcirhca dictam figuram.  Quod quadrum cohopertum est seu erat quadrum cortina panni lini incerati, infra quad quadrum et cortinum insunt quedam alie res dicti constituentis et quas dictus constituens dederat in custodiam dicte sorori una cum dicto quadro.

Et aui constituens et soror predicta ad invicem convenerunt, ut dixit, quad dicta soror nemini dictas res tradere nisi ferenti et ostendenti eidem sorori contrasignum quod dicta soro dedit dicto constituenti.  Et quia dictum contrasignum dictus constituens postea dedit cuidam eius nuncio et mandatario ad hoc ut sibi tradere faceret a dicta sorore predictum quadrum et res que dicta soror habet de dicto constituente, cum si dictus eius nunius et mandataries a dicta sorore ea hueusque [sic] non habuerit, nolit quod ipse amplius ab ea habeat, quod predictum quadrum et res predictas nemini tradere velit, etiam ostendinti et sibi ferenti contrasignum predictum, nisi novo et speciali nuncio dicti constituentis et qui habeat speciale mandatum ad eo manu publici natarii et autenticum ad extrahendum predictum quadrum et res dicta urbe, sub penis, preiudiciis et damnis dicti constituentis.  Et ad omnia faciendum circa dicta protestationem contra dictam sororem si vivit et si non vivit contra dictum monasterium et omnes alias personas penes quod et quas essent predice res et quadrum, que iuris ordo, facti qualitas et merita causarum huiusmodi postulant, exigunt et requirunt, et que ipsemet constituens in predicta protestatione agere et causari potest et posset si presens esset.  Insuper, casu quo ante dictam protestationem ut supra fiendam dicta sorori, dicta soro dedisset predictum quadrum et alie [sic] predicte res alicui qui eidem ostendissent dictum constrasignum, ad agendum contra talem personam que illud et illas habuisset et haeret, et a dicta persona illud repetendum at recipiendum, et postquam illud etc. rehabuerit, ad responendum illud etc. in manibus dicte sororis., si vivit, sin autem in manibuset custodia venerabilis abbatisse dicti monasterii S. Laurentii de Urbe [fol. 130r] et quatenus opus sit, ad agendum, causandum, finiendum et defendendum in predictis et circha predicta et quodlibet predictorum pro ea exequendum, et omnia faciendum que iuris ordo et facti qualitas predicti postulant, exigunt et requirunt et que sub nomine seu nominibus agere et causari comprehenduntur et que ipsemet constituens in predictis agere potest et posset si presens esset.  Dans dictus procurator in predictis plenum, liberum, generale et speciale mandatum, cum plena, libera, generali et speciali administratione.  Promictems mihi notario stipulanti pro omnibus quorum interest, se rati habiturum omne id et totum quad cicra predicta dictus procurator aget et exercet, presens mandatum non transeundo, sub ypotheca sui suorumque heredum et bonorum omnium, mobilium et inmobilium, presentium et futurorum. Relevans etc.  Renuncians omnibus exceptionibus pre eo contra predicta facientibus.  Rogans me notarium ut de predictis publicum conficerem instrumentum.  Cui per guarantigiam precepi [etc.].3

When Rosso fled Rome at the time of the Sack (as did Bishop Leonardo Tournabuoni, as we know from Vasari with regard to Rosso having headed for Borgo Sanseplocro where he painted his Pietà, Fig.P.19a) he left behind the Dead Christ, which, according to the document of 29 September 1527, was being kept for him by a Florentine sister at S. Lorenzo “in Colonna.”  As Franklin indicated this must be the convent of Poor Clares at S. Lorenzo in Panisperna.  (Franklin states that the reconstruction of this church in the early fourteenth century was funded by Cardinal Jacopo Colonna and a connection with this family would seem to account for its name as it appears in the document of 1527.)  According to the document the panel painting showed the figure of Christ “in forma Pietatis” surrounded by angels.  It was wrapped in a waxed linen cloth, between which and the panel were other unspecified items that belonged to Rosso.  The picture and items were to be obtained by the procurator appointed by Rosso and brought to him in Borgo Sansepolcro.  From the same document it appears that at Rosso’s request an attempt had been made earlier by another procurator to get the picture from the sister in Rome, but this attempt would seem to have failed.  The outcome of the second attempt is not documented.

It would seem that at the time of the Sack the picture was still in Rosso’s possession and that to keep it safe he left it with the Florentine sister at S. Lorenzo.  However, it is just possible that Tournabuoni had it and that Rosso, knowing how to pack it, took care of it for the bishop and delivered it to S. Lorenzo.  In any case, when they were both in Borgo Sansepolcro at the time that Rosso began his Pietà for that town, commissioned through the support of Tournabuoni just six days before Rosso appointed the second procurator to go to Rome, Rosso’s picture was not there.  As Rosso claimed the picture it could not have been on an altar at S. Lorenzo (or at any other church in Rome), for if it were, as Franklin pointed, it would not have been his possession.  But Franklin could not accept Shearman’s supposition that the Dead Christ was painted for a private altar in a palace.  Franklin suggested that it may have been for an altar in a church in Sansepolco or for one in the bishop’s palace, but also stated that its original site remains a problem.  But, as the picture was eventually privately owned by Della Casa and possibly received by him as an inheritance, it could never have been placed on an altar in Sansepolcro either.  Commissioned by Tournabuoni only shortly after he became bishop of Borgo Sansepolcro (see below) it is very likely that to some extent it commemorates this appointment, especially as the Dead Christ shows Christ seated on his Holy Sepulchre.  It is probable that the picture did get to Rosso and then to Tournabuoni in Sansepolcro and that it was with the latter when he died, apparently in Rome in 1539 or early in 1540.  Stefaniak, 1992, 715, n. 61, questioned that the picture was used as an altarpiece.

Giovanni della Casa, who then owned the picture, was probably living in Rome at the time of Tournabouni’s death.  He was in Florence in 1541 as commissioner for the Pope’s tithes.  In 1544 he was appointed Papal Nuncio to Venice where he remained until 1550, his house in Rome in the care of Pietro Bembo.  Again in Venice from 1551 to 1555, he returned to Rome that year where he died in 1556.4 Rosso’s painting may have remained in his house in Rome all this time although there is some possibility that it was with Della Casa in Venice.  Where it was kept when in the possession of his heirs is not known.  But it was in Italy in 1902.

LITERATURE:

Apparently the picture mentioned by Vasari, 1550, 800 (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 246) immediately after the S. Maria della Pace frescoes and before the Saturn and Phylira and Pluto and Persephone: “In questo tempo fece al Vescovo Tornabuoni amico suo un quadro d’un Christo morto, sostenuto da due Angeli, che oggi è appresso Monsignor della Casa; il quale fu una bellissima impresa.”

The same in Vasari, 1568, II, 207 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 162), except for the substitution of the phrase: “che hoggi è appresso a gli heredi di Monsignor della Casa.”

Catalogue de la Collection de tableaux, de feu son Altesse Rovale l’Infante Marie Christine de Bourbon, Madrid, 1902, 7–8, 20, no. 44, as Rosso, and with a full page illustration (phototypie de Hauser & Menet, Madrid) showing a strip added at the top, a loin cloth on Christ, and three fine cracks in the panel through Christ’s left thigh down to the bottom, from the top through his left shoulder to his hip, and just to the right of the profile of the right angel.

Arts, XXXIII, 1, October, 1958, 45.

Calender of Events, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January, 1959.

Art News, LVII, no. 10, 19 February 1959, 47, 58.

Art News Annual, XXVIII, Part II, 1959, 60.

“La Chronique des Arts,” GdBA, 6e période, LV, January, 1960, 34.

Shearman, 1963, 217–218, as painted about 1526 in Rome for Bishop Tornabuoni, and as influenced by Michelangelo’s Isaiah and by one of his early Ignudi; the angel at the right related, however distantly, to the figure of Persephone holding a torch in the Triptolemos relief in the National Museum, Athens.  This refers to the way the angel at the right holds his torch as does the right figure in the relief.

Berenson, 1963, 194, Pl. 1470, as 1524–1527.

Hartt, 1963, 231, the use of two torches as perhaps influenced by San Gaetano.

Cornelius Vermeule, European Art and the Classical Past, Cambridge, Mass., 1964, 10, 79, 87, 188, n. 9, the torso of Christ as a mirror image of the Laocoön’s, with the head of the elder son used for the heads of the left and right angels in profile, thereby creating a new, Christian, Laocoön.  He speaks of an intermediate stage provided by Michelangelo’s study in the Louvre (Inv. 716), of about 1519, for a Pietà, itself based upon a now lost ancient torso published in 1671.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 129–130, 132–133, 142, 147, Bk. II, 134–136, P. 20, II, Bk. III, Fig. 65, as 1526–1527.

Shearman, 1965, II, 230, as influenced by Sarto’s lost Puccini Pietà.

Carroll, 1966, 169.

Freedberg, 1966, 583, as done in Rome about 1526.

Shearman, 1966, 148–172, the most extensive consideration of the painting.  As Rosso’s picture painted for Tornabuoni in Rome between 1524 and 1527.  He interprets the picture as essentially new in its indicating the Mystery of Christ’s reawakening rather than showing an event.  Besides being influenced by the Sistine Ceiling he indicates a derivation from the antique relief known as the Bed of Policleitus which was also used by Michelangelo in his later Louvre drawing [Inv. 716, the same as mentioned by Vermeule above].

Sydney J. Freedberg, “Religious Attitudes in Painting of the Italian Reforms and Counter-reformation,” Harvard Art Review, II, 1, 1967, 30–31, as painted in Rome in 1525 or 1526, and as showing in its sensuality a skepticism, or cynicisms toward the article of faith its subject matter holds.

Shearman, 1967, 65–67, 195, as around 1526, and as having maniera; he says that were it riot for the symbols of the Passion it could be mistaken for a Dead Adonis.

Carroll, 1967, 302.

André Chastel, The Crisis of the Renaissance 1520–1600, Geneva, 1968, 100, 102, Color plate, 158, as about 1527; he suggests that there is something equivocal about the figure of Christ but no intended sacrilege.

Göransson, 1969, 132, of the Roman period and as influenced by the Doni Madonna as well as showing light as on antique sculpture.

Perry T. Rathbone, “Director’s Choice,” Apollo, XCI, no. 95, January, 1970, 63, as around 1525.

Fagiolo Dell’Arco, 1970, 92, as influential on Parmigianino.

One-hundred Paintings from the Boston Museum (exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Greenwich, 1970, 32–33, no. 17.

Freedberg, 1971, 130–131, 137, 485, n. 31, 488–489, n. 72, as around 1525–1526, as showing a fusion of Michelangelo’s sculpturesque canon and the ornamental grace stemming from Raphael, serving to create Maniera.  Also as giving evidence of morally cynical attitudes within élite circles of contemporary Rome.  He relates the figure of Christ to that in the Volterra Deposition and to that of the drawing in the Louvre [Inv. 716, mentioned also by Vermeule and Shearman above] disputed between Michelangelo and Sebastiano and used by the latter for his Pietà in Ubeda, indicating a problem that requires to be clarified [see note in text].

Shearman, John, Pontormo’s Altarpiece in S. Felicita, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1971, 22, as showing the identity of altar and tomb.

Fredericksen and Zeri, 1972, 179, 565.

Sinding-Larsen, 1974, 100–101, considered Rosso’s painting an Engelpietà “with angels carrying funerary candles celebrating the immolated but upright sitting Christ.

Del Conde, 1975, 126, 128–131, Figs. 3, 5, 6 remarks that the angels’ heads are reminiscent of Michelangelo’s teste divine.

Keller, 1976, 28, recognized the influence of Rosso’s Christ on Salviati’s in his Pietà in S. Maria dell’Anima.

Walters, 1978, 81, 159–160, as showing Rosso’s perverse pleasure in contrasting Christ’s blatantly sexual body with the religious symbols in the painting.

Barolsky, 1978, 111–112, speaking of Rosso’s ironic treatment of sexuality, mentions Freedberg’s suggestion of the aesthetic and theological irony in the painting.

Charles Hope, Masterpieces of Italian Renaissance Painting, London, 1979, no. 32, Color Plate, as around 1526.

Shearman, 1980, 3.

Steinberg, 1983, 134, comments on the appearance of Christ’s pubic hair.

Chastel, 1983, 163–166, Fig. 82a, as done in 1525–1526, and as representative of a “Clementine” style.

Darragon, 1983, 11, 28, 38–39, 41–43, 58, Fig. 17, as done ca. 1525–1526; he relates Christ to Endymion, Narcissus, and Adonis, and to Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s.

Kolch, 1983, 75, as Rosso, 1525–1527.

Fredericksen, 1984, 323, 331, n. 2, 325–326, 331, n. 11, as by Rosso, not long after the Pace frescoes, but perhaps not the painting mentioned by Vasari.

Caron, 1985, 487–488, discusses the different modes of color of the foremost angels as constituting a “coloristic contrapposto.”

Wilmes, 1985, 78, 85, 109, 137–139, 155–156, 161–162, 167–169, Fig. 26, the head of the angel at right like that of Michelangelo’s ignudo at the Drunkeness of Noah of the Sistine Ceiling.

Bober and Rubenstein, 1986, 127, under no.94, as related to the relief known as the Bed of Policleitus.

Angelini, 1986 (1987), 91, n. 5, as Rosso, c. 1526.

Carroll, 1987, 23.

Caron, 1988, 371, 373, Fig.9, 374, its color Rosso’s answer to the color of the late Raphael.

A. Bacci and D. Benati, in Pittura, Cinquecento, 1988, 427, 428, Fig. 634 (color) as related to the Sistine Ceiling Ignudi.

Hamburgh, 1988, 591, n. 36, found significant the placement of Christ’s right hand near his groin.

Franklin, 1989, 822–823, Fig. 3, 826–827, Appendix, Document 5, published and discussed the document related to the early location of this picture in Rome.

David Franklin, review of The Altarpiece in the Renaissance, ed. by P. Humfrey and M. Kemp, Cambridge 1990, BM, 134, 1992, 252, referring to Sylvia Ferino Pagden’s essay on the migration of Raphael’s altarpieces from altars to cult images commented that Rosso’s Boston Pietà “would represent another early example of this phenomenon.”

Edelstein, Bruce L., wall texts of exhibition, “Rosso revealed,” Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1990–1991.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 23–24, 25, 29, 82, 112–115, no. 21, with 3 Color Pls., 124, 130, 134, 150, as painted in Rome and shows the heroic of Michelangelo’s sculpture and the ornamental grace of Raphael.

Miller, 1992, 109.

Stefaniak, 1992, proposed semiotic, linguistic, feminist, theological, and art theoretical approaches to Rosso’s equivocal eupharistic image.

Hall, 1992, 154–155, Color Pl.34, as c.1525–1526, showing Sartesque sfumato pushed to blackish chiaroscuro combined with bold cangianti in angels and an image that offends religious sensibilities.

Pinelli, 1993, 18, and Fig. 71, following Chastel as in the style of the reign of Clement VII.

Marchetti Letta, 1994, 73, 75, Color Pl. 100, as 1525 or 1526 and close to pagan representations of Adonis.

Brilli, 1994, 26, 120.

Costamagna, 1994, 65, Rosso’s Theatine masterpiece, the body of Christ theatrically presented.

Mugnaini, 1994, 103, 107, 123, notes its sexual and pagan hero aspects.

Valle, 1994, 69–70, 71, Fig., as painted in Piombino, 1518–1520, for Jacopo V Appiani, for the chapel in the Cittadella, to commemorate the death of his wife, Emilia Ridolfi, the appearance of pubic hair as evidence that it was not painted for a bishop.

Harpath, 1994, 357, 358, Fig. 1, 359–362, related it to the verso of Uffizi 6485F.

Ciardi, 1994, 53, 71, 74, Fig., 75, 95–96, n. 127, as showing Christ’s physical body explicitly, and presenting the relation of God/man without remorse or hypocrisy and without hiding the sexual aspects of the subject.

Franklin, 1994, 74, 120, 138–146, 148, 150–153, 161, 170, 177, 190, 216, 224, 226, 309, Appendix F, DOCUMENT 5, Color Pls. 87, 108, 110, appears to be an altarpiece and perhaps for a public place in Sansepolcro, but the problem of public or private site remains; described in 1527 document as a Pietà, what we call a Man of Sorrows; unusual in showing Christ completely naked, Michelangelo’s Minerva Christ its immediate inspiration; the doppieri candles symbolizing death and burial, and seen also as altar candles, hence lending eucharistic connotations allowing for thoughts of redemption.

Jollet, 1994, 75, Fig., 80, noted the sculptural body of Christ contrasted to the delicacy of the angels.

Natali, 2006, 148, 158–178 and Figs.108–119 and Natali, Pontormo e Rosso, 2014, 230–239 and Figs. 79, 81–182, extensively argues that the original intended place of the Dead Christ was the altar of the Cesi Chapel dedicated to the Annunciation in S. Maria dell Pace, as part of the iconographical program to which Rosso’s frescoes on the façade of the chapel belong, with support from the writings of Saint Augustine and with reference to the Angel in a study for the chapel by Antonio da Sangallo il Giovanni (Uffizi, 703A) identified as the Angel of the Annunciation and to Rosso’s Seated Woman in a Niche (D.10), as possibly of the Virgin Annunciate for that chapel; all offered against Vasari’s acceptable identification of the Dead Christ as having been made in Rome for Leonardo Tornabuoni, Bishop of Borgo Sansepolcro. to whom it was eventually delivered in that town.

Although the Dead Christ shows four instead of two angels it has been accepted by all critics, except Fredericksen in 1984 and Valle in 1994, as the painting that Vasari says Rosso painted in Rome for Leonardo Tornabuoni.  The subject of the picture showing Christ seated on his sarcophagus makes it likely that it was painted in response to his position as Bishop of Borgo Sansepolcro to which he was appointed in mid-1522, but of which he first took possession on 14 January 1524. 5 Vasari mentions the picture after the Cesi Chapel frescoes in S. Maria della Pace, for which Rosso was last paid on 3 October 1524.  Although the figure of Christ is very similar to that of Adam in the Creation of Eve of this chapel there is a degree of explicit physicalness in the former that also relates it to the figures in the Pluto and Proserpina (E.46) that Rosso drew and Caraglio engraved early in 1527.  The way in which the figures fill the composition of the latter recalls the Dead Christ, too, but this is an aspect of the Cesi Chapel frescoes as well.   Furthermore, the body of Christ resembles that of the gods in the Jupiter in a Niche (E.28) and the Bacchus in a Niche (E.42) engraved by Caraglio in 1526.  The pressure of the right foot on the toes of the Bacchus is quite like that of Christ’s right foot.  Proserpina’s left foot in the print presses down in a similar way.  Most comparable to the ringlets of the angels is the hair of the Apollo in a Niche (E.36) and this is quite unlike the hair in the Cesi Chapel frescoes.  One might recognize Rosso’s degree of ease with the Michelangelesque aspects of the Dead Christ as indicative of a time after what might be seen as the overzealous Michelangelism of the frescoes of 1524.

These comparisons suggest that the Boston picture was painted some time later, probably not before 1525.  But given its similarity to the Gods in Niches and to the Pluto and Proserpina it is likely that it was done in 1526.  That the picture was left behind in Rome by Rosso might seem to indicate that it was still in his studio in 1527.  But as Tounnabuoni also fled the city at the time of the sack, 6 it is just possible that Rosso was assisting him when he left the painting at S. Lorenzo.  In any case the painting was most likely done in 1526 and early 1527.

While the picture was named a Pietà in the document of 1527, the image is, as Franklin noted, what we now call a Man of Sorrows.  It is unlikely that it was ever intended for a public site, and that it was ever set in one.  The very fact that it was in Giovanni della Casa’s possession suggest that it was always privately owned.

COPY: London, Arcade Gallery, in 1958–1960.  (Apparently later in the collection of Benjamin Rowland, and then of Mrs. Benjamin Rowland, but not still in September 1991).  Panel, 35.6 x 25.4.  A rather crude and dark copy of Rosso’s picture with the figures slightly elongated, but relatively accurate in its details; without the signature and without the drapery, and without the loin cloth that had been added to the original picture (see above, illustration in Madrid catalogue of 1902).  Brought to my attention by Milton Lewine. Photographs: John Underwood, 12 Girdlers Road, London, W.14, neg. no. WG 100; Coopers, London, no. 34197. LITERATURE: Shearman, 1966, 170, n. 25.


1From the museum’s files.

2 Franklin, 1994, 141, indicated that there is no evidence that Tornabuoni ever received the picture. Still, after his death Vasari knew that it had been painted for him, so it is reasonable to conclude that he did own it.  Furthermore, Franklin stated that it is unlikely that Giovanni della Casa received the picture directly from Tornabuoni because Della Casa’s Tornabuoni mother had already died in 1510.  But that does not mean he would not have received it through family connections.  Franklin also suggested that he may have acquired it in Rome in the 1530s or in the early 1540s, thus possibly even before the bishop’s death in1540.  Of course, before he died Tornabuoni could have given it to Della Casa, perhaps in 1539 when he left the bishopric of Sansepolcro.

3 Franklin, 1989, 826–827, Appendix, Document 5, and revised in 1994, 309, Appendix F.  DOCUMENT 5; transcribed here with minor corrections by Gino Corti.

4 See R.S. Pine-Coffin, in the Introduction to Giovanni della Casa, Galateo or The Book of Manners, Harmondsworth, 1958, 11–13.

5 See Lorenzo Coleschi, Storia Bella città di Sansepolcro, Città di Castello, 1886, 145–146; Farulli, 1713, 43; Ercole Agnoletti, I vescovi di Sansepolcro, Sansepolcro, 1972, I, 22–29; and Shearman, 1966, 148, 168–169, ns. 4–8, 19.  He was born in 1494, the same year as Rosso.  Under Leo X Tornabuoni held the post of cameriere pontifico.  He was appointed governor of Città di Castello probably in 1527 (or less likely, 1529), and made Bishop of Aiaccio in Corsica by Paul III on 24 March 1539.  He died either that year or early in 1540, apparently in Rome.  See also Franklin, 1994, 139.  On the picture after Michelangelo’s Pietà made for Vittoria Colonna that Agnoletti thought might be Rosso’s, see Franklin, 1994, 283–284, n. 59.

6 As reported by Vasari (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 163).