Nicholaos Tzafouris was one of the many icon painters working in the city of Candia (now Iraklion) in Crete at the time when Crete was under the control of Venice. The combination of Byzantine and Latin elements seen in many Cretan icons was well received locally and in Italy. The Greek inscription on this icon describes a Byzantine icon type in which soldiers drag Christ to Golgotha. The image here, however, is western in type, showing Christ carrying the cross to Golgotha. The soldier before Christ wears contemporary Italian armor, and those behind him wear Byzantine or Cretan armor.
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Title:Christ Bearing the Cross
Artist:Nicolaos Tzafouris (Greek, ca. 1455–1500/1501)
Medium:Oil and tempera on wood, gold ground
Dimensions:27 1/4 x 21 1/2 in. (69.2 x 54.6 cm)
Credit Line:Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Funds from various donors, 1929
Inscription: Signed and inscribed: (lower center) NICOLAVS·ZAFVRI·PINXIT·; (top, in Greek) [Christ] being dragged to the cross; (beside Christ's head, in Greek) Jesus Christ; (right, on banner) SPQR
?Apollinare Matterozzi, Urbania (until d. 1827; inv., 1828); private collection, Barcelona (sold to Drey); [Drey, Munich; sold to Dean]; Bashford Dean, Riverdale, N.Y. (by 1920/25–d. 1928; his estate, 1928–29; sold with his collection to The Met)
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery. "Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece," August 21–October 16, 1988, no. 52.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557)," March 23–July 4, 2004, no. 308.
New York. and Onassis Cultural Center. "The Origins of El Greco: Icon Painting in Venetian Crete," November 17, 2009–February 27, 2010, no. 15.
Giovanni Battista Passeri in Antonio Francesco Gori. Thesaurus veterum diptychorum consularium et ecclesiasticorum. Florence, 1759, vol. 3, p. 5, describes a painting of this subject, with the same inscription above and signature below.
Inventory of the collection of Apollinare Matterozzi. 1828, c. 9r [Archivio curia vescovile, Urbania, b. 66, f. 14, Cappella Matterozzi, Allegato 7; see Mezzolani 2015], records in the vestibule of the chapel of the family's palace in Urbania a "Quadro grande a legno rappresentante il Nazzareno, che và al Calvario, ed entro Figure con Cornigie a velatura," possibly this picture.
Jean-Jacques Reubell. Letter to Bashford Dean. March 24, 1910, judging from a photograph, suggests it is a 15th-century Greco-Venetian work and notes that the armor is Italian.
Charles Buttin. Letter to Bashford Dean. March 25, 1910, discusses the peculiar armor in this painting.
Bashford Dean. Manuscript catalogue of his arms and armor collection. 1920–25 [original in Kienbusch library, Philadelphia Museum of Art] paintings, no. 10, attributes this panel to a Sicialian painter, perhaps because another panel from the same retable was said to be in the museum of Palermo [Museo Nazionale]; notes that when our picture was obtained from Drey (in Munich) "it was so discolored, the figures could hardly be seen. It had been varnished several times and the face of Christ had been painted over."; remarks that it came to Drey from a collector in Barcelona.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 1, records the signature and identifies the painter as Nicolaus Zafuri [Nicolaos Tzafouris].
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 104.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 212, 286, 607.
Marisa Bianco Fiorin. "Nicola Zafuri, cretese del Quattrocento, e una sua inedita 'Madonna'." Arte veneta 37 (1983), p. 166, fig. 5 (framed).
G. Kalas inHoly Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece. Ed. [Myrtali Acheimastou-Potamianou]. Exh. cat., Walters Art Gallery. Athens, 1988, pp. 49, 134–35, 211, no. 52, ill. in color (overall and detail), dates it 1489–1500, noting that it is one of five signed icons by the artist; transcribes the Latin and Greek inscriptions and discusses the juxtaposition of Byzantine and Italian elements in the composition.
Maria Georgopoulou inByzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557). Ed. Helen C. Evans. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2004, pp. 505–6, no. 308, ill. (color), discusses the conflation of Italian and Byzantine motifs; suggests that the difference in Byzantine and Western types of armor may have been intended to distinguish the Jews from the Roman soldiers.
Maria Constantoudaki-Kitromilides. "Tradition and Diversity: Icon Painting in Crete, Venice, and the Ionian Islands." The Greek World under Ottoman and Western Domination: 15th–19th Centuries. Ed. Paschalis Kitromilides and Dimitris Arvanitakis. New York, 2008, pp. 55, 71 n. 7.
Maria Constantoudaki-Kitromilides et al. inThe Origins of El Greco: Icon Painting in Venetian Crete. Ed. Anastasia Drandaki. Exh. cat., Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), Inc. New York, 2009, pp. 15, 56, 60, 62, 68, no. 15, ill. (color).
Valerio Mezzolani. "L''Andata al Calvario' di Nikolaos Tazfouris già nella collezione Matterozzi di Urbania: un'opera ritrovata." Arte marchigiana 2 (2015), pp. 31–42, figs. 1 (color), 2 (from Bianco Fiorin 1983), identifies it with a work appearing in the 1828 inventory of the collection of Apollinare Matterozzi, son of the collector Alessandro Matterozzi, and notes that it is also mentioned by Giovanni Battista Passeri (1759).
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