Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 74

A LO NSO CA NO / A new Dead Christ on the Cross
on which Pacheco places his signature in the first two
works. Christ wears the Crown of Thorns and has a
halo. His head is at the same height as the hands and
is slightly inclined, but without breaking the verticality
of the composition. His right leg is somewhat curved
rather than rigid, with one knee close to the other, and
his feet are separated at an oblique angle from the heels,
with toes just overhanging the ledge. The loincloth is
tied, falling along the line of the thighs, longer on the
right and shorter between the legs, so that the vertical
emphasis of the image remains uninterrupted. The
arms of the Cross are smooth, like the ledge, and since
the bottom of the Cross is not shown, the previously
depicted skull is not included.
The tituli of the Dead Christs from 1614-1615 are
inscribed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, as was the
case in the work in El Coronil from 1611 (although
the writing is now rather indistinct). Unlike the earlier
painting, however, the Latin inscription in these later
versions starts with HIC EST (followed by IESVS
follows John in using all three languages, but he takes
from Mark and Luke the opening words.32 A few years
later, in 1619, Fernando Enríquez Afán de Ribera,
the 3rd Duke of Alcalá, visited Pacheco’s workshop
and saw a Christ on the Cross with four nails which he
praised although it generated a philological polemic.
In this same year or perhaps 1620, the duke wrote his
tract, Del título de la cruz de Cristo nuestro Señor, laying out
his position on the basis of an example which he had
seen in the church of Santa Croce in Rome. He was
answered by Francisco de Rioja.33
The final Dead Christ on the Cross by Pacheco is now
in a private collection in Madrid. Dated 1637 and
signed with the same initials as the Granada painting
of 1614,34 it is painted on a smooth wooden cross like
the El Coronil version and is similar in size to the works
from 1614-1615 (55 x 35 cm – two tercias by a palmo
and sexma de vara). The titulus also commences with HIC
EST. The depiction of Christ is the same as in the three
pictures discussed above, although the panel is extended
slightly at the top and the arms are spread further
from the Cross. Christ’s feet are, however, attached
with four nails, with the left crossed over the right, in
reverse to how they appear in the El Coronil painting.
As no intermediary versions by Pacheco are known, it is
impossible to determine when he abandoned the model
with feet shown in parallel and instead adopted this last
pose which originated with Michelangelo.
A LON SO CA N O / A new Dead Christ on the Cross
Francisco de Zurbarán’s paintings of the Dead Christ on
the Cross are also relevant to the present discussion. His
three-year apprenticeship with Pedro Díaz de Villanueva
was signed in Seville in 1614, but it is not certain if he
completed this as he appears in Llerena in 1617.35 It is
clear that Zurbarán knew Pacheco’s treatise on the four
nails and had seen some of his works, either during his
apprenticeship or upon his return to Seville in January
1626, when he signed a contract for a series of twentyone paintings for the Dominican convent of San Pablo.
Dating from the following year, his Dead Christ on the Cross
(Art Institute of Chicago, 290.3 x 165.5 cm; 3½ x 2
varas) was produced for the sacristy of the same convent.
This depiction includes four nails, with feet resting on the
ledge, in parallel, although turned slightly to the right.36
In 1988 José Milicua observed that the prior of the
convent of San Pablo, fray Vicente Durango, was one
of the learned men who approved the text by Pacheco
on the four nails, 37 meaning that the painter must in
all probability have had the benefit of his counsel. In
other ways Zurbarán’s picture is quite different from
the examples produced in 1614-1615 by Pacheco:
the figure hangs and the tilt of the head and torso are
pronounced, the latter diverging from a vertical axis; the
legs are also turned slightly in the opposite direction,
putting pressure on the feet; the loin cloth, which is
very wrinkled, mainly falls to the left and does not have
a knot as in Pacheco’s versions; the Cross is rustic, the
ledge a simple piece of wood, the nails are numerous
and the titulus is a crossed piece of wood on which
there is no Hebrew text, nor the words HIC EST.38
Later depictions of the Dead Christ on the Cross by
Zurbarán present different characteristics, even if they
maintain the four nails. The work in the Museo de
Bellas Artes of Seville (which comes from the Capuchin
Convent) is also large (255 x 193 cm; 3 x 2½ varas).39 It
has been dated between 1627 and 1640, but I believe,
like Juan Miguel Serrera,40 that it would have been
painted before Zurbarán arrived at court in 1634.
Christ lifts his head and turns to the right, which causes
his body to twist slightly. The loin cloth, overblown
and wrinkled, is tied on the viewer’s right and hangs
down to the knee. The titulus does not include the
phrase HIC EST. The Dead Christ now in the Museo de
Bellas Artes in Asturias, similar in size to the previous
ones (271 x 177 cm.; 3 ¼ x 2 ¼ varas), is dated by
the museum to 1638-1640.41 From the point of view
of its iconography, it is very different to the versions
mentioned above and, despite some variations, is closer
to those produced by Pacheco. The head is still under
the crossbeam, heavily inclined but initiating a strong
vertical axis; the loincloth is ample but falls to the left
and is shorter than the ones cited previously; the feet,
in parallel, hang over the ledge, as they do in those of
Pacheco. The titulus is in the three languages, but does
not include the HIC EST. On this basis, we think that it
was painted ca. 1630, before the work produced for the
Sevillian Capuchins.
The presence of four nails in all the images of Christ
on the Cross painted by Zurbarán continued until a very
late date. The Dead Christ with a Donor now in the Prado
is dated to 1640 (244 x 167.5 cm; 3 x 2 varas), while the
Christ Expiring with the Virgin, Saint John, and the Magdalene
(Private Collection, London) is signed and dated 1655
(212 x 163 cm; 2 ¾ x 2 varas).42 These feature most of the
same iconographic characteristics even if in the second
version, the movement of the head and cloth varies from
the work painted for the Capuchins; the presence of half
figures does not interfere with the formal aspects.
Fig. 8 / Diego Velázquez,
Crucified Christ, signed and
dated 1631, oil on canvas,
102 x 57 cm, Madrid,
Museo Nacional del Prado.
It is also worth mentioning the two paintings of Christ
on the Cross produced by Velázquez after his first trip
to Italy (1629-1630) which are today in the Museo del
Prado. These Crucifixions – like those of Pacheco and
Zurbarán – shed light on Cano’s treatments of the
subject. The first, Christ on the Cross (fig. 8), showing the
Saviour alive, is relatively small, but approximately
double the size of those by Pacheco. I will not address
at length the question of Velázquez’s authorship,
rejected by many scholars, but accepted here.43 Signed
and dated “D. Velazquez fa/1631”, it comes from
the monastery of the Bernardines in Madrid which
gave it to the State after the Civil War. Its authenticity
is supported by the inclusion of a work of the same
dimensions in an inventory of goods drawn up on the
death of Velázquez: no. 582, “Un Cristo crucificado
de vara y cuarta de alto y tres cuartas de ancho.”
The work could have been an ex-voto given to the
Bernardines after the artist’s safe return to Spain.
Its relationship to other pieces by the master is clear.
It has four nails and the feet in parallel, the figure is
completely vertical, and the face looks upwards to our
left; the head is resplendent, but there are no rays or
halo around it; the figure bends four fingers of each
hand. It differs from the work of Pacheco in that the
figure hangs heavily, the head is beneath the crossbeam,
and the loincloth is short and tied in a central knot with
no ends falling on either side. The Cross is smooth but
here the grain and knots are visible. The titulus with the
triple legend occupies some of the crossbeam, perhaps


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