Design for a Crucifix with the Virgin Mary, Saint Mary Magdalen, and Saint John
Polidoro da Caravaggio (Italian, Caravaggio ca. 1499–ca. 1543 Messina)
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk
15 7/8 x 9 5/16 in. (40.3 x 23.6 cm)
Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2003
Not on view
Like the studies for an altarpiece exhibited nearby, this drawing dates from the last phase of Polidoro's career, when he was active in Sicily. The haunting depiction of the Crucifixion shows Christ isolated on an elaborate reliquary-like cross rising from the trunk of a tree-an allusion to the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden that bore the forbidden fruit consumed by Adam and Eve, precipitating the fall from grace redeemed through Christ's sacrifice. Isolated in their grief, the mourning figures of the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalen occupy the space at the base of the cross. The function of this drawing is unknown; it may be a design for a gonfalone, or processional banner, commissioned by a confraternity dedicated to the Crucifix (in which case the Crucifix in the drawing may allude to an actual object of veneration, perhaps a reliquary of the True Cross). Such lightweight works, painted on canvas, often doubled as altarpieces or devotional images when installed in an oratory or the chapter house of a confraternity.
Inscription: At lower center, in pen and brown ink, annotated "polidoro" and at upper right corner, in pen and brown ink, "69".
Marking: Unidentified collector's stamp at lower right.
Unidentified Collector; Sotheby's, London, Sale, June 30, 1986, lot 127; Private Collection, England; Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd., London; Vendor: Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd., London
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 26, 2004–July 25, 2004.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 4, 2011–June 12, 2011.
Pierluigi Leone de Castris Polidoro da Caravaggio: fra Napoli e Messina. Exh. cat. Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples, Naples, 1988, cat. no. XI b. 8, pp. 152-53, ill.
Pierluigi Leone de Castris Polidoro da Caravaggio: l'opera completa. Naples, 2001, cat. no. no. 155, pp. 426-427, 481, ill.