Lot 52
  • 52

Jacopo Ligozzi

600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jacopo Ligozzi
  • Christ carrying the cross
  • signed lower left with the artist's device of I-L surmounted by a cross and dated 1604
  • oil on canvas


Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 3 March 1924, lot 75 (as Sebastiano del Piombo); 
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 14 January 1993, lot 89;
With Matthiessen Fine Art Ltd. London, 1993;
There acquired by the present collector.

Catalogue Note

This dramatic painting by Jacopo Ligozzi, portraying Christ carrying the cross, crowded by soldiers and onlookers, presents a powerful and deeply moving scene. Signed at the base of the cross, the painting is also dated 1604, a period in which the artist concentrated on scenes from the Passion, a theme that would continue to occupy him into the following decade.  Following the demise of Mannerism, Ligozzi selected more somber subjects to appeal to the Florentine Counter-Reformation, the verisimilitude of his scenes and his intensely expressive figures setting him apart from the ostentatious Baroque style fashionable in contemporary Florence.  

The dynamism of the guard’s stride across the foreground here and the chaotic crowd of faces and limbs are interposed by the figure of Christ, his meek expression creating a chastening calm that pervades the scene.  The figure to the right of the cross, wearing a red hat and holding a spear, earnestly meets the viewers gaze, drawing us into the crowded scene and involving us directly in Christ's suffering.  Despite the scientific aspect to many of his images, Ligozzi was a remarkably pious man, a quality reflected not only in his painting but in his many religious and allegorical drawings.  Becoming almost obsessed with damnation, the artist repeatedly created glorified depictions of the deadly sins with winged skeletons and macabre memento mori, as well as solemn religous subjects such as the present one.  His skill for replicating details from life is demonstrated in this painting through the realism of textures and surfaces, the naturalism of the guard's bare forearm and the almost still life quality of the woven twigs in the crown of thorns.  Rather than the usual signature di minio denoting the artist’s pride in his highly realistic scientific miniatures, here he signs with his initials I-L interlinked with a hyphen and surmounted with a cross, as an open declaration of his faith 

While certain passages may have been completed with the assistance of his studio in via Larga, the exceptional detail of the guard’s clothing, the tasseled cords and weapons, and the vivid aspect of Christ can only have been accomplished by the master himself.  The armor and doublet of the guard are finished to an exceptional quality, using smooth strokes to recreate the gleaming surface of metal and the rich gloss of fabric, while the highly decorative pommel of the sword looms bright yet ominous from the darkness. 

After a period under the employment of the Habsburg family in Vienna, Jacopo Ligozzi moved to Florence circa 1576 where, swiftly recognised for his exceptional talent, he was engaged by the Medici for the Grand-Ducal workshop The artist was hired primarily as a draftsman, documenting flora and fauna from the gardens and menageries of the Medici with extraordinary naturalism and detail.  Following the death of Giorgio Vasari however, he became capomaestro of the studio, serving Francesco I, Ferdinando I, Cosimo II and Ferdinando II, and was involved in the decoration of the Tribuna, Loggia and the rooms that later became the Uffizi Gallery.  He remained in Florence under the patronage of the Medici family for the duration of his career. 

We are grateful to Lucilla Conigliano for her assistance in the cataloguing of this lot and for endorsing an attribution to Jacopo Ligozzi with some studio assistance on the basis of photographs.