This is one of Solario’s last works and must have been painted for a church in or near Milan. The painting takes the interconnectedness of heaven and earth as its theme. The original frame likely echoed the painted architecture in the picture to create the illusion that the figure of Christ stands in a space that is one with our own, erasing the boundary between divine and earthly realms. Solario reinforced this idea in his positioning of Christ’s hands, which gesture upward to heaven and downward to earth. The figure also stands atop a circle, a traditional symbol of God’s perfection, inscribed within a square, a symbol of earth with its four seasons, cardinal directions, and elements.
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Fig. 1. Bergognone (Italian, Milan ca. 1453–1523 Milan), Christ, Fresco, Santa Maria della Passione, Milan
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Artist:Andrea Solario (Italian, Milan ca. 1465–1524 Milan)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:80 1/4 x 51 1/2 in. (203.8 x 130.8 cm)
Credit Line:From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922
Probably trained in Venice, Andrea Solario was one of the most important painters working in Milan in the first years of the sixteenth century. He was deeply influenced by Leonardo da Vinci (who was active there from 1482 to 1499 and again from 1506 to 1513) but also by his sculptor brother, Cristoforo. Solario was employed by Cardinal d’Amboise at the Château de Gaillon in Normandy from around 1507–10, where his work made a major impact on French artists, while he in turn was attentive to works of art that he saw there. The original location, and therefore function, of this imposing depiction of Blessing Christ is not known. It is generally considered one of the artist’s last works, by comparison with an Assumption of the Virgin left finished at his death in 1524 (Certosa di Pavia; see Zeri and Gardner 1986). The figure may have been inspired by the sculpture of a Christ Blessing by Antonio di Giusto (also known as Antoine Juste; 1479–1519) with similarly heavy draperies falling in wide folds, originally in the Chapel at Gaillon (see Zeri and Gardner 1986 and Brown 1987), while the composition is directly related to the central panel of an important commission by the older Milanese artist Ambrogio Bergognone, the Christ and the Apostles painted for the Chapter House of the church of S. Maria della Passione in Milan in 1515 (see Shell 1998 and Bayer 2003; see fig. 1 above).
The painting is remarkable above all for the representation of architecture and space. Christ stands behind an illusionistic framed opening that would have appeared to extend beyond the actual frame of the painting, an effect that emphasizes his real presence and is comparable to that created in the Bergognone and by other Lombard artists at the time. At first sight the painted architectural setting seems rather simple, but closer viewing reveals numerous subtle visual asymmetries, with, at the right, a fuller view of the opening of the doorway, the twisting ties that hold up the heavy green curtain behind Christ, and the base of a column. The curtain hangs in folds on the floor on that side, but falls straight behind it at the left, suggesting that Christ is standing on a sort of platform with light entering from an opening at the left. Brown (1987) has observed that the austere but powerfully articulated and classicizing architecture was inspired by that of Solario’s great contemporary Bramantino, specifically his designs for the portal of the funerary chapel of the Trivulzio family (church of San Nazaro, Milan). The severe architecture and the motif of the draped door may be meant to evoke ancient tombs, suggesting that Christ is triumphant over death. The pattern of the floor, in which a circle is inscribed in a square, may also refer to the nature of Christ as God in human form.
Andrea Bayer 2014
marchese Pallavicino, Milan; Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, Milan (by 1897–1914; cat., 1900; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 4, 1914, no. 60, to Trotti); [Trotti, Paris, 1914]; James Stillman, Paris and New York (1914–d. 1918); his son, Ernest G. Stillman, New York (until 1922)
Giovanni Morelli. Della pittura italiana. Milan, 1897, p. 158 [new ed., 1991, ed. Jaynie Anderson, p. 171], as in the collection of Benigno Crespi, Milan; attributes it to Giampietrino.
Adolfo Venturi. La galleria Crespi in Milano. Milan, 1900, p. 236, ill. opp. p. 236, attributes it to Solario and calls it one of his last works.
Francesco Malaguzzi. "Review of Venturi 1900." Archivio storico lombardo 27 (1900), p. 331, agrees that it is one of Solario's last works.
Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri. Milano. Bergamo, 1906, vol. 2, p. 36, ill. p. 31, calls the attribution to Solario uncertain, noting similarities to the work of Boltraffio.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 294, lists it as by Solario, in the collection of Benigno Crespi, Milan.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 385 n. 1, lists it as by Solario.
Lisa de Schlegel. "Andrea Solario." Rassegna d'arte 13 (July 1913), p. 105, calls it a mature work.
Lisa de Schlegel. Andrea Solario. Milan, 1913, pp. 23–24 [same text as Ref. Schlegel (Rassegna d'arte) 1913].
Kurt Badt. Andrea Solario: Sein Leben und seine Werke. Leipzig, 1914, p. 203, pl. XIX, dates it about 1515.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 4, Paris, 1918, p. 292, no. 1, ill. (engraving).
Wilhelm Suida. "Leonardo da Vinci und seine Schule in Mailand." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 13 (1920), p. 35, as formerly in the Crespi collection; dates it between 1515 and 1520.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "An Anonymous Gift." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (March 1922), p. 58.
Wilhelm Suida. Leonardo und sein Kreis. Munich, 1929, pp. 201, 291.
W[ilhelm]. Suida inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 31, Leipzig, 1937, p. 223, calls the composition Venetian.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 142, ill., states that the relaxed drawing and the bright colors are typical of Solario's late works.
Ugo Galetti and Ettore Camesasca. Enciclopedia della pittura italiana. [Milan], 1951, vol. 3, p. 2318.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 91.
Luisa Cogliati Arano. Andrea Solario. 2nd ed. Milan, 1966, pp. 44, 46, 48, 75–76, 83, no. 31, fig. 112, believes that it shows knowledge of Raphael's "Disputà" and "School of Athens" (both Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican City) and therefore must have been painted after Solario's trip to Rome in 1514, probably in about 1515; also suggests that it shows the influence of Bramantino.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 411.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 190, 356, 606.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 59–60, pl. 31, call it a late work, close in date to the Assumption of the Virgin (Certosa, Pavia) left unfinished at Solario's death; suggest that there may have been a sculptural prototype for the figure; relate it to Gossart's "Neptune and Amphitrite" (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) of 1516.
David Alan Brown. Andrea Solario. Milan, 1987, pp. 17, 238, 267 nn. 67–69, 71, pp. 284–86, 288–89, no. 71, fig. 201 (color), notes that it is not known for where the picture was made nor whether it was an independent work or part of a larger complex; concurs with Zeri [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986] that it is a very late work, close to the Assumption of the Virgin (Certosa, Pavia) left unfinished at Solario's death; identifies a statue of Christ by Antonio di Giusto as the sculptural prototype proposed by Zeri; notes that the pose of Christ is also very similar to that in a painting by Bergognone (Santa Maria della Passione, Milan); sees the influence of Leonardo's Last Supper (Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan); compares the architectural setting to a drawing (Castello Sforzesco, Milan) attributed to Bramantino for the Trivulzio mausoleum, San Nazaro, Milan, noting that both are inspired by antique funerary monuments and represent the triumph of Christ over death; adds that the design of the pavement refers to the nature of Christ as God in human form.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 102, ill.
Janice Shell inAmbrogio da Fossano detto il Bergognone: un pittore per la Certosa. Ed. Gianni Carlo Sciolla. Exh. cat., Castello Visconteo, Pavia. Milan, 1998, pp. 375, 378 n. 3, calls it a late work, from the 1520s; notes that Solario was inspired by Bergognone's figure of Christ in Santa Maria della Passione, Milan.
David Alan Brown inThe Legacy of Leonardo: Painters in Lombardy 1490–1530. Milan, 1998, p. 250, fig. 135.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 11–14, 64, fig. 5 (color), ill. p. 64 (detail), dates it about 1524.
Alessandro Ballarin, with the collaboration of Marialucia Menegatti, and Barbara Maria Savy. Leonardo a Milano: Problemi di Leonardismo milanese tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio prima della Pala Casio. Verona, 2010, vol. 1, p. 645, dates it about 1515–20.
Riccardo Lattuada inArtemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo. Exh. cat., Palazzo Braschi, Rome. Milan, 2016, p. 222, under no. 67.
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