Girolamo Romanino (Italian, Brescian, 1484/87–1560)
Distemper and oil(?) on canvas
70 7/8 x 47 1/2 in. (180 x 120.7 cm)
Purchase, Anonymous Bequest, by exchange, 1989 (1989.86)
This highly charged depiction of the flagellation of Christ was painted about 1540 as a processional banner for a confraternity of laymen; the reverse side has a damaged image of the Madonna of Mercy surrounded by kneeling members of the confraternity. Romanino's sensitivity to light and his brilliantly descriptive brushwork are indebted to the work of Titian, but his interest in vehement expression was inspired by German prints. The picture was almost certainly known by Caravaggio, who was from Lombardy, and it influenced his Flagellation in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.
Romanino here worked with distemper, which allowed him to paint loosely and thinly in broad and sketchy brushstrokes. Faces are defined by a few darker strokes punctuated with flicks of white to suggest the highlight on a nose or cheek as it emerges from shadow. The Flagellation shows Christ tied to a column at the center, with his tormentors grouped tightly around him, cropped at the sides. The gentle vulnerability of Christ contrasts with the brutishness of the soldiers who bind their switches and threaten him.