Contents

P.9 Deposition

P.9 Deposition

1521

Volterra, Pinacoteca Comunale, no. 7.1

Panel, 941 x 201.2 Signed and dated at the lower right on the side of the ladder: RVBEVS / FLO FAC / AS / MDXXI.3

Fig.P.9a
Fig.P.9b four women

Fig.P.9b(2) Magdalen[Take out extra line spacing and underline under Magdalen]
Fig.P.9c
Christ
Fig.P.9d Christ’s head
Fig.P.9e bw, Christ’s head, missing area
Fig.P.9f Magdalen’s head, inscription
Fig.P.9g John
Fig.P.9h yellow drapery, inscription and underdrawing
Fig.P.9i background

From notes taken before the restoration of 1981 (on which, see below), the surface along the four seams of the five boards of which the panel is constructed, especially along the two seams at the right, has cracked and been repaired.  Elsewhere a number of very small losses have been filled; there are also numerous worms holes.  The only serious loss is a rather large area including part of Christ’s right eye and part of his head and hair to the left above that eye.  This has been inpainted with cross-hatched strokes.4 The areas around Christ’s right hand and around the lower edge of the arm supporting his knees show damage and repair.  Damage and repainting also appear in the darkest brown areas of St. John’s drapery, especially at the left, and a long scratch, partly repainted, is visible along his right arm. The upper, dark part of the drapery of the woman at the left has been repaired.  Pentimenti can be seen at Christ’s left ankle and foot, the first position of which appears to have been behind the other foot; another alteration is visible along Christ’s right thigh.  Incised lines in the gesso marking the edges of the cross and ladders and the ground line on which the foremost figures stand can be seen in places.  In certain areas the paint is so thin, and may with time have become even more transparent, that the underdrawing on the white gesso ground of the panel is clearly visible.  This can be seen especially in the loin cloth of Christ, in the drapery of the man with the bare back on the left ladder, in the drapery of St. John, and in that of the woman at the left.  In the latter there are clearly visible in the drawing a different disposition of the drapery over the shoulder and a hand that the artist originally intended to show supporting the Virgin at her waist.  Two written inscriptions are also visible, one just to the left of the underdrawing of the hand of the woman at the left, the other in the hair of the Magdalen.  Both of these, as well as most of the underdrawing visible in the original, can also clearly be seen in the photographs of the painting.  The first inscription is certainly under the painted surface and is written, most likely, with the dry drawing medium of the underdrawing.  It is a word ending: oloso, but the preceding one or two letters are not clear.  The second inscription appears thinly painted on top of the painted surface.  Kusenberg, 1931, 184, n. 32, reads it as: A Z 1708 and believes it to refer to the painter who restored it at that time.  This reading seems accurate if the last digit is seen written lengthwise.  Shearman, 1957, I, 229–234, II, 220, ns. 27 and 29, and 1966, 150, 169, ns. 10–11, read the first inscription as: violoso and stated that it refers to the color violet originally intended and painted here and which has subsequently faded and changed its hue.  The other inscription he reads as: azuro or azurro but mistakenly places it within the drapery of the lower man on the left ladder (although he refers to Barocchi, 1950, Pl. 13, which is of the head of the Magdalen).  Shearman’s readings do not seem correct and it is not certain that the colors of Rosso’s picture have significantly faded and changed hues although some of the most thinly painted areas have probably become somewhat more transparent than they were originally.  Franklin, 1994, 66–67, also discussed the notes as relating to colors “(not pigments)” and considered the painting unfinished, as indicated not only by the notes, but also by the drawing of the unpainted hand in the figure at the left and the absence of the use of azurite which had not arrived, suggesting that Rosso left Volterra in a hurry for Florence leaving the picture to be finished by someone else following the instructions of the notes.5 A photograph of the unframed picture (Sopr. alle Gallerie, Florence, no. 46965) and the color plates in Ciardi, 1978, show an unpainted area of a few centimeters along the sides and the top of the panel, unpainted except that the foot of the lower man on the ladder at the left and the head of St. John are extended into this strip.

Vincenzo Borghini in 1557 or 1558 noted that the picture was unfinished (Williams, 1985, 19, 21, App. I E, Item 5; see below).  Lanzi, 1789–1818 (1852, 162) expressed the same opinion, and this was repeated by Leoncini, 1869, 33, and Cinci, 1885, 118.  Certain parts of the altarpiece are painted thickly and others are only barely covered with pigment as observed and discussed by Dal Mas, 1939, 122–124.  These differences can be seen as the result of Rosso’s intentions, related to those of the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece, that were planned from the very beginning of his work on the Deposition, and not, as Dal Mas would suggest, only recognized by the artist as what he was seeking when he arrived at the state of completion now presented by the painting, nor, as Franklin thought (see above), because he abandoned the work.  Burresci and Caleca, 1981, 27, considered what they termed the “non-finito” of the painting as one aspect of the painting that came about in the process of its execution. But it should be recognized that the most thinly painted areas – the brightest highlights – allow for the light to be most intensely reflected from the white ground of the panel.  This gives to the picture its particular and startlingly dramatic luminary effect that would otherwise not exist and which is experienced as part of the whole conception of the altarpiece.

In modern times the painting was cleaned and restored in Siena by Italo Dal Mas in 1935 (Dal Mas, 1939, 118, 125), and in 1949 by Nicola Carusi of the Sovrintendenza ai Monumenti of Pisa to repair damage incurred during World War II (Fiumi, 1949, no. 33, and in Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 30).  The picture was also cleaned and restored in 1981 by Fausto Giannitrapani under the direction of Clara Baracchini, whose report appears in Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 30. They claim that except for a few areas attacked by soda, such as the mantle worn by the woman at the left, the colors are in perfect condition.  A new cradle with aluminum rods has replaced the dovetailing done in 1935 to hold the panels together.  The restorations are noted in Franklin, 1994, 277, n. 56.

The gray-bearded figure at the top of the cross wears a garment slightly pinkish red-orange; the drapery flying above him, a dark grayish green.  His turban is blue-green becoming pinkish violet in the shadows; his sash is yellow-tan.  The man on the top of the ladder at the left wears a dark gray-green garment becoming orange-pink in the light; his sash is dark green turning to light yellow-green in the light; his cape, dark tan.  The man below him is dressed in light yellow, white in the light; the cord over his shoulder, orange-tan. Christ’s flesh is yellowish green, more gray in the shadows; his hair and beard reddish; his loin cloth gray-white.  The figure behind Christ has a gray-white sleeve just to the right of Christ’s head, a dark blue-green garment and a tan sash.  The woman at the lower left has white drapery over her shoulder, brushed with yellow, tan in the shadows; her lower garment, orange-tan, more yellow in the light; she wears a necklace of red-orange beads; her headdress is very dark green and brown.  The tonality of the Virgin, including her flesh, is green, in response to Christ’s coloring; the drapery over her head, very dark green, that around her neck, gray.  The woman at the right of the Virgin is dressed in dull terra-cotta brown.  Mary Magdalen wears red-orange, but more orange than the drapery of the man above the cross, becoming pink in the light; a grayish white insert at her back and a yellow tan sash; she has greenish yellow hair with dull gray-pink-lavender ribbons.  The boy holding the ladder wears a greenish yellow tunic becoming an ashen gray in the shadows, and a dark green sash; the material around his arm is grayish lightly brushed with lavender.  St. John has reddish hair; his undergarment, a bluish green becoming white in the light; his cloak is tan becoming more brown in the shadows and white in the light.  The soldiers in the distance at the right are bluish green, white, and red-orange.  The cross and ladders are brown, the outside ladders considerably darker. The sky is dark blue-green becoming somewhat lighter from the top down.  In the background the hills are bluish green; the foreground land is brown.

DOCUMENTS: There are no known primary documents related to the commission and execution of the Deposition.  But Franklin discovered two documents that he thinks may be related to the eventual ordering of the altarpiece and to the adornment of the chapel in which it was placed.  Neither mentions Rosso’s name and both date from when he was still in Florence in 1517 and 1518.  The first of 1 January 1517 (Franklin, 1994, 58–59, 302, Appendix C, DOCUMENT 1: AFS, NA, 10048, ex-G574, Giovanni Gotti, 1514–1518, fol. 113r-v) pertains to the election of two syndics of the Confraternity of Santa Croce in Volterra to have painted a picture to be placed on the altar of its chapel to honor God and the Cross and to aid in saving the souls of its present, past and future members (“quam facere et seu fieri facere de dictis denariis et aliis offerendis quam pingi et seu pingi facere unam tabulam mittendam et collocandam super altare dicte societatis ad homorem Die et Sancte Crucis et pro remedio animarum ipsorum fratrum et antecessorum ac successorum etc.”).

Following a legacy of 500 lire from Antonio Guidi to the confraternity in 1517 to be used “in adornatione dicti oratorii” (Franklin, 1994, 58, 276, n. 31, ASF, NA, 10048, G574, Giovanni Gotti, 1514–1518, fol. 151r), on 3 January 1518 (modern style) four members were appointed to spend pertinent sums for decoration within a year’s time (“expendendi in ornamentum dicte eorum societatis…ad unum annum tantum”; see Franklin, 1994, 59, 302–303, Appendix C, DOCUMENT 2).  Franklin believes it cannot be ruled out that this expenditure refers to Rosso’s painting, perhaps to its frame.

As noted above Rosso was in Florence when both of these documents were written, and he was there certainly until the end of 1518 executing the S. Maria Nuova altarpiece (P.5).  It is generally assumed that before working in Volterra he was active in Piombino or elsewhere for the Lord of Piombino.  The Deposition is dated 1521. Hence it is not at all certain that in January of 1517 and of 1518 the confraternity could have had any knowledge of Rosso.  Furthermore, the money to be used in 1518 was to be spent in a year.  What may have been the case is that the first sum of 1517 which was specifically designated for an altarpiece and to which no time limit for its spending was stipulated was eventually used for Rosso’s altarpiece. The artist could, then, have become known to the confraternity from his activity in not too distant Piombino.

PROVENANCE: Recorded by Vasari, 1550, 797 (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 243) as in Volterra, and by Vincenzo Borghini, in 1557 or 1558 (Williams, 1985, 17, and 21, App. I E, Item 5) also as in Volterra but more specifically as in “San Francesco in una Compagnia, credo della Croce.”  In 1679 a Deposition was seen and recorded as on the altar of the Chapel of S. Croce di Giorno (presumably at the church of San Francesco) and this almost certainly refers to Rosso’s painting. (Fig.S.Croce Chapel, Volterra)6 It was described as having a well carved wood and gilt frame.  There was also a chapel of S. Croce di Notte at San Francesco.7 One of these two chapel survives and is at the right of the church on its south side, but no source has been located that independently firmly establishes its name as “di Giorno” or “di Notte.”  However, Graham Smith has observed that the direction of the light in Rosso’s painting is related to the source of light in the existing chapel.8 If the Chapel of St. Croce di Notte was on the other side of San Francesco, which seems to have been its location,9 the light there would have been in the opposite direction.  Consequently, it appears very likely that the existing chapel is the one in which Rosso’s painting was seen in 1679 and is the chapel for which the altarpiece was executed.10 Franklin 1994, 59, 276, n. 33, gives later manuscript sources apparently all of the eighteenth century and before 1788 that also mention the altarpiece when it was in its original location but they do not clarify the exact location of it as distinct from the other chapel of S. Croce.  Leoncini, 1869, 32–33, stated that in 1788 the Deposition was moved to the Chapel of S. Carlo in the cathedral of Volterra “con approvazione sovrana dalla soppressa compagnia della Croce detta di giorno.” Bacci, in Ciardi, 1987, stated that the move took place soon after the laws of suppression of 1786; Franklin, 1994, 59 gives 1785.  Carli, 1978, 100, and 1980, 52, wrote that this did not take place until 1850. But it is recorded there in A.F. Giachi, Saggio di ricerche storiche sopra lo stato antico a moderno di Volterra, Florence, 1766, Siena, 1796, 200 (quoted by Lessi in Ciardi, 1987) as in the oratory of S. Carlo in the cathedral of Volterra; see also Franklin, 1994, 59, 276, n. 35.  Also as there in 1857 in John Murray, Handbook for Travelers in Central Italy, I: Southern Tuscany and Papal States, fourth edition, London, 219 (as in Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 68, n. 4).  According to Ricci, 1924, 66, it was moved to the Pinacoteca in 1905 (Paolucci, 1989 156, as no. 7 of Ricci’s inventory of Proprietà Opera del Duomo sent to the ministry on 16 October 1905: Archivio del Catalogo della Soprintendenza ai Beni Artistici e Storici di Firenze, Fasc, Arte 504, anno 1905).  The Pinacoteca was established that year in the Palazzo dei Priori.  After its restoration in 1981 Rosso’s altarpiece was moved to the seat of the new Pinacoteca in Palazzo Solaini-Minucci; Franklin, 1994, 59, gives the date of the move as 1982.

LITERATURE:

Vasari, 1550, 797, (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 243) immediately after the “Christo morto” and the “cappelluccia” that Rosso made for the “Signor di Piombino,” and just before the Dei Altarpiece of 1522: “a Volterra dipinse un bellissimo deposto di Croce.”

Vincenzo Borghini, 1557 or 1558 (Williams, 1985, 19, 21, App. I E, Item 5): In Volterra: “San Francesco in una Compagnia, credo della Croce, è una Sconficchatione di mano di Rosso, bello quanto la può, ma non finita, tal che da presso le figure hanno l’aria un po’ stranetta come soleva.”

Vasari, 1568, II, 205–206 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 158), as in Vasari, 1550.

Referred to by Lanzi, 1789–1818 (1852, 162) as unfinished.

Guida per la città di Volterra, Torrini, Volterra, 1832, 161.

Burckhardt, 1855 (1904, III, 788; 1910, 838), as by Pontormo.

Leoncini, 1869, 32–33; Cinci, 1884, 8–9 (see n. 6); Cinci, 1885, 118.

Berenson, 1896, 129.

D’Annunzio, 1910, placed the picture in the Palazzo Inghirami, and gave a lyrical interpretation of it.

Goldschmidt, 1911, 19–20, as influenced by Sienese quattrocento art.

Clapp, 1916, 238.

Voss, 1920, 123f., 184–185, as visionary but with the clarity of a dream.

Ricci, 1924, 66.

For Friedlaender, 1925, 60, 73, 74, Fig. 10, 75 (1957,19, 29–32, Fig. 10).  It reveals a decisive step away from the balanced and classical and towards the spiritual and subjective; he relates the picture to the latent Gothic of quattrocento art, and points out Filippino Lippi’s Deposition, finished by Perugino, as its prototype, and Michelangelo’s early Pietà as the source for Rosso’s Christ.

Pevsner, 1928, 28–29, as of 1517, and speaks of its figures as like immaterial phantoms and its formal construction as similar to that of Pontormo’s Visdomini altarpiece of 1518.

Battistini, 1928.

Kusenberg, 1931, 14–16, 184, ns. 32–38, relates the figure of Christ to that of Sarto’s lost Puccini Pietà engraved by Agostino Veneziano in 1516, and to the seated soldier from Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina (reproduced by the same engraver, B. 423, in 1523).

Medea, 1932, 79–80, Pl. XIII.

Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 207–208, 209, Fig. 117, 231, speaks of the influence of Northern art, especially in the caricatural figures lowering Christ’s body, that transforms a Michelangelesque scheme of a Deposition that is very clear in the upper part of the picture.

Exposition de l’Art italien de Cimabue à Tiepolo, Peintures, Paris, 1935, 186, no. 411.

Kusenberg, 1935, 62.

Dal Mas, 1939, 121, mentions the derivation of the figure of Christ from Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Mostra del Cinquecento, 1940, 67.

Salmi, 1940, 80, speaks of the model of the Filippino Lippi-Perugino Deposition recreated in the fury of an intense irrational spiritual life.

Attilio Podestà, “La mostra del Cinquecento,” Emporium, XCI, June, 1940, 274, as revealing Rosso’s own spiritual torment before, in his later works, he exhausted himself in a “michelangiolismo di maniera.”

Sabatini, 1941, 424, speaks of Rosso’s new chromatic intentions, with the lower figures created in terms of light-color while the upper are still realized by the use of chiaroscuro.

Becherucci, 1944, 27, believes that the Magdalen was inspired by the St. Catherine in Fra Bartolommeo’s Marriage of St. Catherine in the Louvre, and that the figure of St. John recalls that of St. Joseph in the Frate’s Circumcision in the Uffizi, and in his study for it in Lille.

Fiumi, 1949, no. 33.

Barocchi, 1950, 35–39, 245, recognizes the influence of Sarto, Pontormo, and Dürer, with St. John’s drapery related to the kind in Dürer’s etched Agony in the Garden of 1515 (B. 19), and the figure above the ladder to a drawing by Dürer for a Deposition in the Albertina.

Becherucci, 1955, 171, discusses its relation to Michelangelo’s art.

Salmi, 1956, 835–836, as recreating irrationally the scheme of Filippino Lippi’s and Perugino’s picture.

Shearman, 1957, I, 229–234, II, 220, ns. 27 and 29.

Becherucci, 1958 (1968, 455, 461).

Freedberg, 1961, 555–557, 607, sees in its drawing the influence of Pontormo, and its canon of form derived from his Visdomini altarpiece.  He also sees the Deposition as the first presentation of this subject at night, in accord with the Biblical text, and as illuminated by moonlight.  He suggests that the St. John may stand for the artist who now inhabits his own creation.

Briganti, 1961, 25–26, 49, Color Pls. 11–13 (1962, 23–24, 44, same Plates) discussed it as linked to Florentine Renaissance classicism but “the variations reach such a degree of tension and the tonality is so exorbitant as to render the fundamental theme almost unrecognizable.”

Brugnoli, 1962, 338, speaking of the night landscape in Perino del Vaga’s Deposition formerly in S. Maria Sopra Minerva, suggests that it may be dependent on Rosso’s picture.

Berenson, 1963, 195, Pls. 1465, 1467.

Paolucci, 1963, the colors as “esempi di deformazione intellettualistica della realtà.”

Ciardi Duprè, 1963, 37, recognized the forms of Rustici’s Baptism of Christ as anticipating those of Rosso’s Deposition.

Hartt, 1963, 234.

Bousquet, 1964, 98, says that the painting clearly shows Rosso’s desire “to reduce the human form to its geometrical structure.”

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 70–78, 81, Bk. II, 123, P. 13, II, Bk. III, Fig. 22.

Daniel B.  Rowland, Mannerism – Style and Mood, New Haven and London, 1964, 3–13, 15–20, 23, 46, 47, 75–81, compared the altarpiece with Pontormo’s Deposition, and with other pictures of the same subject by artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as with the work of Gesualdo and Donne.  For some reason Rowland believes that “Rosso, as his name suggests, was an angry, violent man who murdered his servant in a fit of rage.”

Pariset, 1965, 34, mentioned its “formes decoupés, presque cubistes.”

Hauser, 1965, 191–192, as sharing stylistic features with Pontormo, and as dream-like, abnormal, macabre, and ghostly, with caricature-like figure types.

Marita Horster, “Eine unbekannte Handzeichnung aus den Michelangelo-Kreis and die Darstellung der Kreuzabnahme im Cinquecento,” Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, XXVII, 1965, 221–222, as related to a Michelangelesque drawing in Munich.

Borea, 1965, Pls. VIII–XI, speaks of the influence of Lippi’s Deposition.  She sees the old man above the cross as related to German iconography, the woman at the left looking out of the picture as related to figures in Sarto, but with Pontormesque eyes, and the torsion of this figure and of the boy holding the ladder as like that in Michelangelo’s Doni tondo.

Shearman, 1965, I, 45, 167, II, 229, discusses the influence of Sarto’s Puccini Pietà on the figure of Christ and points out that the color of Sarto’s figure and that of the Christ in his Pietà in Vienna may also have influenced Rosso.

Shearman, 1966, 150, 169, ns. 10–11, 23.

Freedberg, 1966, 583–584.

Shearman, 1967, 51.

Clark, 1967, 18, Pl. XIII, believes that Christ is derived from Michelangelo’s Pietà and that the Magdalen shows direct reference to Arnolfo di Cambio’s sculpture on the façade of the cathedral of Florence.

Argan, 1968, 149–150, as “colta e popolaresca ad un tempo.”

Göransson, 1969, 130, Fig. 12, 131–132, 134, speaks of the figures elongated as in the gothic manner, its system of line possibly based on Michelangelo’s Cascina cartoon, and its light as perhaps originating in trecento painting.

Hartt, 1969, 509–510 (1987, 559–560, Fig. and Color Pl. 79), as “well-nigh blasphemous.”

Weiss, 1971, 18, n. 1, 36, 65, 152, as showing gothic angularity and the influence of Northern prints.

Freedberg, 1971, 128, 484, n. 26, as indebted to Pontormo, as revealing the study of Michelangelo, probably of the Cascina cartoon, and as showing ambivalence towards its human and religious theme.

Shearman, Pontormo’s Altarpiece in S. Felicita, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1971, 30, n. 30, makes reference to the loss of colors.

Del Conde, 1975, 126–128, 129, Figs. 1, 4, relates the figure of Christ to Louvre drawing by Michelangelo.

Dunkelman, 1976, 151, believes the figure of Christ is influenced by Donatello’s in his Deposition in S. Lorenzo.

Bonito Oliva, 1976, 162–166 and Fig., gave an extensive and careful account of the painting in the context of Mannerism.

Smith, 1976, 67–70, discusses its relationship to the chapel of the Compagnia di S. Croce di Giorno (see above and n. 10).

Nyholm, 1977, 124, 146, 150, 151, 153, 154, recognized its influence on Pontormo’s lunette Pietà drawing, Uffizi 300F recto and on the Capponi chapel Deposition; she also commented on the size of the cross and on the influence of the wood Dugento Deposition in the cathedral of Volterra.

Walters, 1978, 156, sees Christ’s body as lost in the pattern of crosses and figures.

Carroll, 1978, 31, 34, Fig. 16, 39, 40.

Carli, 1978, 100, Color Pl. VI, relates it to the Deposition by Filippino Lippi and Perugino, and to Sarto, Pontormo, Dürer, and Fra Bartolommeo, but as assimilating and surpassing them.

Hall, 1979, 37, mentioned its “unclassical abstracted realm.”

Brandi, 1980, 309, commented on the aggressive acidity of the color.

Carli, 1980, 52, no.42, Pl. IV (Color), Fig.25.

Smith, 1980, 19, 21, Pl. 1, commented on its “strange physical and psychic relationships” and on its “subject newly revived after its virtual eclipse during the fifteenth century.”

Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 27–30, Figs. on 52–53 (color), 91–95, writing after the recent cleaning, commented on its quick execution and of the influence of Michelangelo, suggesting a trip to Rome in 1518–1521.

Darragon, 1983, 34, 35–37, 42, 58, Fig. 11, discusses the importance of the original location of the painting in the Chapel of S. Croce di Giorno (although he inadvertently also identifies it as in the chapel of S. Croce di Notte, mistakenly thinking that the Crucifixion attributed to Sodoma in the existing chapel was painted for the other)11; he also mentioned the effect of the gothic style and of local sculpture on the painting, its identity with the Holy Cross, and Rosso’s personal interpretation of its subject.

Sinding-Larsen, 1984, 42, 58, notes as fallacies Hartt’s use of “blasphemous” and “denunciation of God” for a picture that was made and accepted for the important “Cross-altar” in this small town of Volterra.

Mirollo, 1984, 17, 43.

Williams, 1985, 17, 19, 21, recorded Vincenzo Borghini’s remarks of 1557 or 1558, on which see above.

Wilmes, 1985, 64, 67, 71, 73, 74, 76–77, 81, 85, 107, 111, 114–120, 122–125, 128, 134–139, 153, 161, 164, 174–175, Fig. 16, related its graphic handling to Dürer’s woodcuts.

Marilena Mosco, in Maddalena, 1986, 119, Fig.2, 121, pointed out the new movement of the Magdalen toward the Virgin.

Angelini, 1986 [1987], 91, n. 7.

Leoni Zanobini, 1986, thought it was executed after a stay in Piombino; she posited the influence of Etruscan alabaster urns on its color and related its cangianti colors to Michelangelo’s of the Doni Tondo and the Sistine Ceiling.

Ciardi, 1987, unpaginated, thought it may indicate that Rosso had already seen the Sistine Ceiling; the signature “RVBEVS FLO” indicating not only the color of his hair, but an indication of his “patria,” not included in signatures on paintings done in Florence.

Also Bocci and Lessi in Ciardi, 1987, on the provenance of and the literature on the picture.

Carroll, 1987, 19.

Caron, 1988, 362–375, Fig. 4, as the most damaged of Rosso’s works, the violets having changed to pale yellow.

Hamburgh, 1988, offered a Franciscan interpretation and saw Christ’s right hand as placed at his groin and hence as referring to his Incarnation and to his Circumcision [although Christ’s right hand is actually completely hidden behind Christ’s body].

Hirst, 1988, 50, related the standing Virgin to the same figure in the Descent from the Cross relief in the Casa Buonarroti.

Kaskinen, 1989, thought the placement of the figures and the lighting in the picture were influenced by theatre practices.

Paolucci, 1989, 29, 64, 65, 156–163, no. 34, 191, with 6 Color Pls. and 8 Black and White Pls., as seen by D’Annunzio in the rooms of the Palazzo Inghirami, and quotes his comment that the men “presi nella violenza d’un vento fatale”; it destination in the chapel of the confraternity not one of social and intellectual prestige but one frequented by “popolani e piccolo borghesi” and as an expression of “low church” rather than of intellectual élites; also as related to Peter de Witte’s Mourning of Christ in the Pinacotca.

Lebensztejn, 1990, 3–10, 26, 32, n. 5, including color plates.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 31, 50, 60, 64–75, with 9 Color Pls., 76, 86, 114, 116, 124, 126, 136, 149, the pose of Christ recalling Michelangelo’s Roman Pietà and the color like that of the Sistine Chapel, indicating a trip to Rome in 1519–1520.

Hall, 1992, 153, as Rosso breaking new ground with its brazen cangiantismo and denial of sfumato; she also notes its hard forms, inexplicable light, fever-pitch emotion, and blond manner coloring.

Stefaniak, 1992, 703, 704, Fig. 7, states that Christ is beardless [which he is not].

Lebenstejn, 1992, 272, 279–280, 281, Color Fig. 98, 284, 286, 288, 294, 297, the scene physically precarious but dramatically stable.

Franklin, 1994, 54–70, 72–73, 76, 78–80, 82, 91–92, 107, 117, 144–145, 168, 171, 174–175, 278, n. 91, 302–303, Appendix C, DOCUMENTS 1 AND 2, 316, Color Pls. 40, 43, 44, 50, as showing visual evidence that Rosso had already visited Rome and as abandoned unfinished to hurry back to Florence, related to the dedication of the confraternity of S. Croce di giorno to the Holy Cross and to the Virgin and to the gift by the Guidi family, that had strong ties with the chapel, of a fragment of the cross in 1513, and related to documents of 1517 and 1518 concerned with an altarpiece and ornament for the chapel; showing a short-stemmed cross with a low subpedaneum, a rigid Christ with a smile of extreme anguish; and in the absence of statutes of this confraternity related to the statutes of S. Croce di notte about respect to be paid to the Holy Cross and the Virgin Mary, but without any references to Franciscan thought.

Brilli, 1994, 10, Color Pl., 25, 106, Color Pl. (detail), 108–109.

Costamagna, 1994, 12, 36, 38, its colors allowing one to think that Rosso went from Piombino to Rome where he saw the Sistine Ceiling.

Falciani, 1994, 12, 23, n. 17, its figurative language showing voluntary “archaismo” as a dialogue with Cenni di Francesco’s frescoes to exalt the values of tradition.

Gaillemin, 1994, 59, Fig., 65–66, projects a dramatic violence that “‘dépasse l’entendement.’”

Falciani, in Gnocchi and Falciani, 1994, 70, Color Fig., 71, as perhaps feigning statues in a niche.

Marchetti Letta, 1994, 60, 61–63, Color Figs. 85–87, 65, as showing the body lowered at sunset as in Matthew 27:45, 57, the color notes on the parcel that do match the colors used indicating the development of the picture right up until its final state, and the color of the altarpiece related to the Sistine Ceiling and the pose of Christ related to Michelangelo’s Roman Pietà giving clear evidence that Rosso was in Rome between 1518 and 1521.

Franco Alessandro Lessi in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 181, under no. 23, the left arm and hand of Christ in Peter de Witt’s Mourning of Christ as from Rosso’s Deposition.

Ciardi, in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 176, under no. 20, with reference to Giocan Paolo Rossetti’s Deposition in San Dalmazio, Volterra.

Mugnaini, in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 161, under no. 15, 170–175, no. 19, and six Color Pls., brings up the relation to an undocumented youthful trip to Rome, and notes motifs similar to that in the Baltimore Holy Family.

Burresi, in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 148, under no. 3, compares it technique with that of the Rebecca and Eliezer in Pisa.

Mugnaini, 1994, 101, 102, 103.

Valle, 1994, 25, 55, 65, 70.

Ciardi, 1994, 20, 33, 44, 49, 57, 66, 70, Fig., 71–75, 79, 86, 92, n. 50, 97, ns. 66 and 165, as influenced by Uccello’s “violentazione cubista,” by Puligo’s Deposition in Venice and in Anghiari, by Andrea Sansovino’s Madonna and Child and St. Anne in Rome, by northern prints, and by the color of the Sistine Ceiling, hence an undocumented trip to Rome between 1518–1520; as “non-finito” in the lower part; as showing unusual thematic options, the exaltation of the cross only hinted at but showing a continuous descent from the divine to the human level; the eclecticism of Filippino Lippi’s influential Deposition finished by Perugino and perhaps with the intervention of Leonardo presenting an exalting example to Rosso.

Penny, 1994, 12, questions that it is unfinished.

Jollet, 1994, 76, Fig., 77 and Fig., 78, 80, as showing the monumentality of Fra Bartolommeo opposed to improbable space.

While the date of the picture in 1521 is certain it is not clear what relation it has to Rosso’s work for the Lord of Piombino, which is generally dated prior to his arrival in Volterra.  The general opinion that it is closely related to the Deposition begun by Filippino Lippi and completed by Perugino may suggest that before executing the panel in Volterra Rosso was aware of this commission and hence did some study for it in Florence.  It is possible that he returned briefly to Florence after working for the Lord of Piombino. I do not think that an understanding of the conception of the altarpiece requires that by the time Rosso did it he had visited Rome.

The size and proportions of the altarpiece were calculated to fill entirely the central bay of the apse of the Cappella della Croce di giorno for which it was made, thus relating it to the architecture of the chapel of the confraternity dedicated to the Virgin, to the Holy Cross and to St. Francis.12 The frescoes of 1410 by Cenni di Francesco di Ser Cenni of the Story of the True Cross that decorate the walls of the chapel confirm the confraternity’s devotion to the Holy Cross, traditionally associated with St. Francis, whose image receiving the stigmata is the subject of one fresco (Fig.St. Francis, Volterra, Chapel).  Rosso’s picture is dominated by it huge cross, giving focus to the whole program of the frescoes. However, this cross is unlike any representation of it in Cenni di Francesco’s frescoes.  It is the tau-shaped cross venerated by St. Francis, which makes reference to the mark (sign) made by the Hebrews above their doors with the blood of the Pascal lamb prior to their departure from Egypt to protect them from the angel of death (Exodus 12:23).  This cross was drawn by St. Francis himself (Fig.Tau) and in mention by Thomas of Celano who wrote of St. Francis: “He took for a special token the sign tau,” and “He used it as the signature of all his letters, and he painted it on the walls of all the cells.”  Bonaventura also identified St. Francis with the tau-writing Angel of the Sixth Seal (Apocalypse 7:2).13

COPIES: Florence, Uffizi, no. 6493F recto, Copy after the figure of St. John, red chalk, 26.9 x 18.8 [the animal—squirrel?, porcupine?—wearing a collar at the right in pen and ink (Fig.P.9Copy, Florence); verso: Men on horseback before a fortified gate above an encampment of tents, pen and ink and wash (Fig.P.9Copy, Florence,verso)].  LITERATURE: Berenson, 1903, no. 2424, as Rosso.  Kusenberg, 1931, 140, no. 30, P1. IX, as Rosso.  Berenson, 1938, no. 2424, as Rosso.  Charles de Tolnay, History and Technique of Old Master Drawings, New York, 1943, 120, no. 93, Fig. 93, as Rosso.  Becherucci, [1944] 1949, 27, Pl. 72, as Rosso.  Barocchi, 1950, 36, n. 1, Fig. 12, as Rosso.  Longhi, 1951, 59 (1976, 99), as a copy after Rosso’s painting.  Bertini, BdA, 1952, 312, as not an autograph drawing.  Shearman, 1957, II, 222, n. 40, as Rosso.  Hartt, 1958, 158, as Rosso.  Berenson, 1961, II, no. 2424, III, Fig. 992, as Rosso.  Carroll, 1964 (1976), II, Bk. II, 468–469, F.18, Bk. III, Figs. 163–164, the recto as a copy after Rosso’s painting, of the late sixteenth century, and possible by the same hand as Uffizi 649S, also formerly attributed to Rosso; see Carroll, 1964 (1976), II, Bk. II, 485, F.28, Bk. III, Fig. 179.  Clark, 1967, 18, as Rosso.  Leoni Zanobini, 1986, 93, 94, Fig. 4, as Rosso.  Ciardi, 1987, as Rosso.  The draughtsmanship of no drawing by Rosso resembles this one that is precisely like the figure in the painting and must be derived from it, as first pointed out by Longhi.  It is now so labeled at the Uffizi.

Siena, Biblioteca Communcale, Vol. III . 9, 16 recto, Copy of the figure of St. John, (Fig.P.9Copy, Siena) black chalk heightened with white on light brown washed paper, 26.3 x 11.5.  (At lower right, a standing male nude in red chalk; verso: a draped figure[?] in black chalk, and two words in ink, one of which seems to read: Almo.)  Brought to my attention by Michael Hirst who related that it was found by Walter H. Vitzthum who recognized it as a copy, which it is.

Windsor Castle, no. 0369, Copy of the three women at the left and the head of the Magdalen (Fig.P.9Copy, Windsor), red and black chalks, 17.3 x 10.3.  LITERATURE: Popham and Wilde, 1949, 325, no. 879, 353, as possibly Federico Zuccaro.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, La Ricotta, 1962, one of four short films by various directors collected under the title Rogopag (Fig.P.9Copy, Pasolini, Deposition).  LITERATURE: Nyholm, 1977, 17, Fig. 2, as a faithful copy of Rosso’s painting.  Mirollo, 1984, 40, and Lessi in Ciardi, 1987, commented that Pasolini created a parody of Rosso’s picture in this film.  Pasolini reconstructs Rosso’s picture, and in color in this black-and-white film, as part of the story of a director (Orson Welles) making a film on Christ’s life.  Another color sequence reconstructs Pontormo’s altarpiece in S. Felicita, Florence.  I want to thank Jeffrey Lieber for lending me his tape of this film.


1 Paolo Ferrini, Volterra, Volterra, 1954, 8.

2 Measurements given by Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 27, and Leoni Zanobini, 1986, 92.  Fiumi, 1949, no. 33, gave 337 x 196.  Kusenberg, 1931, 184, n. 32, and Barocchi, 1950, 245, gave the height as 333.  Dal Mas, 1939, 121, gave the height as 375, but this is clearly a mistake, repeated in Mostra del Cinquecento, 1940, 67.

3 Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 27, give … FLO. … A.S….

4 See Sopr. alle Gallerie, Florence, photograph, no. 46950, of this area before the inpainting (Fig.P.9e).

5 Even if the first inscription is a color note referring to violet where white and yellow are now seen this would not necessarily mean that Rosso actually used violet here.  The change in the drawing of the figure where this inscription appears from what the underdrawing shows to have been Rosso’s first idea indicates that the initial conception of this figure was not so absolutely fixed at the very beginning of its realization on the panel.  This could be as true of the figure’s color as it is of its posture.

6 See Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 68, and n. 6, where the record of the visita pastorale of Monsignor Sfondrati is transcribed: Archivio Vescovile Volterra, Mons. Carlo Filippo Visita Pastorale, I, folio 140 verso: “Visitavit oratorium sub titulo Smae Crucis de die vidit altare, quod est ligneum, et in medio adest lapis sacer, deficit tela cerata quam mandavit apponi. supe[r] quo altari assurgit figura ab optima manu elaborata, repraesentans Mortem Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, et eius de cruce depositionem cum ornamentis ligneis deauratis bene sa habentibus.” See also Bocci and Lessi in Ciardi, 1987.  Bocci stated that the record is by the protonotary apostolic Pietro Valentini, general vicar of Bishop Sfondrati.  Bocci also mentioned a visit by the Bishop of Rimini in 1576 (see P. 10) when a “Tavola overo Ancona” was cited as on the altar of the Compagnia di Giorno, but its subject was not given.  Twice before its removal the altarpiece was recorded as by Rosso and as in the chapel (or oratory) of the Compagnia della S. Croce di Giorno at San Francesco in two manuscripts by A. Ormanni in the Biblioteca Guarnacci, Volterra, by A. Ormanni, Opere di pittura e scultura che si vedono nella città di Volterra, ms. 8611, fasc. 3, and Opere di pittura e scultura che sono in Volterra, ms. 5835, c. 6, both cited by Lessi in Ciardi, 1987.  (In ms. 5839 Ormanni stated that S. Croce in Giorno also had frescoes by Cenni and Jacopo da Firenze.)  Lessi also published two other records of the painting in 1756 as by Rosso, but without stating if they gave its exact location. G. Guidi, Note delle pitture e sculture che si trovano nella città di Volterra, Archivio Guarnacci, Volterra, ms. (not inventoried), and Borgucci-Verani, Nota delle pitture e sculture che si vedono nelle chiese di Volterra, Biblioteca Guarnacci, Volterra, ms. 5869, c. 212. In the same library, in ms. 10283, Delle Fabbriche Chiese e Iscrizioni esistenti nella Città di Volterra, c. 116, of 1812–19, it is recorded that the painting, then in the cathedral, came from the Compagnia della Croce di Giorno.

7 Cinci, 1884, 8–9, stated that Rosso’s altarpiece was originally in the now destroyed Chapel of the Compagnia di S. Croce di Notte on the other side of the church of S. Francesco (although he wrongly placed the existing chapel at the left of the church), but here in 1679 Monsignor Sfrondrati had seen a Crucifixion (Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 68, n. 6, in same document given in n. 5 above, folio 139 verso: “… Oratorium predictum [of S. Croce di Notte] est midique depictum figuris repraesentantibus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Passionem e supe altari desupe est vexillum Crucifixi Domini Nostri.”)

8 Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 70.

9 See n. 7.

10 Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 68, 70, pointed out that the subject of Rosso’s picture complements and completes, in a sense, the two fifteenth century fresco cycles in the chapel with scenes of the life of the Virgin and of the Legend of the True Cross.  The record of Sfondrati’s visit does not indicate any wall paintings in S. Croce di Giorno while in the record of the visit to S. Croce di Notte there is a reference to scenes of the Passion of Christ, apparently indicating wall paintings (see n. 7).  These scenes were identified as frescoes by Niccolò Carcignani [Circignani] by A. Ormanni in Biblioteca Guarnacci ms. 5839, c. 6 (see n. 5).  Cinci, 1884, 9, remarked that the chapel was “tutta pitturata a buon fresco.”  It is not known when this chapel was destroyed.

11 On this altarpiece see Smith, Zeitschrift, 1976, 70, n. 7, who stated that it is now attributed to the Sienese painter Bartolommeo Neroni (see C. Ricci, Volterra, Italia artistica, no. 18, Bergamo, 1905, Fig. on 150), and that, according to Monsignor Bocci, with whom Smith had spoken in Volterra, it “came to Volterra from a Cappella della Croce at Casole d’Elsa, after Rosso’s altarpiece was transferred to the cathedral.  See also Franklin, 1994, 59.

12 See Pjleger, S., “La Cappella della Croce nella chiesa di S. Francesco di Volterra,” Rassegna Volterrana, 19–60, 1983–1984, 173–178.

13 See Fleming, J. V., From Bonaventura to Bellini. An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis, Princeton, 1982, 99–128, and Figs. 24–25.