Lot 1
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Francesco da Ponte, called Francesco Bassano il Giovane

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  • Francesco da Ponte, called Francesco Bassano il Giovane
  • The Lamentation
  • With Galleria Manfrin label on the reverse, and another with inv. no. 47 and inscribed: G da [Ponte] Bassano
  • Oil on slate, gold paint


Probably Conte Girolamo Manfrin (1742–1802), Palazzo Manfrin, Venice;

His son Pietro Manfrin;

His sister Julie-Jeanne Manfrin Plattis;

Whose heirs, Marchese Antonio Plattis and his sister Bortolina Plattis Sardagna divided the collection in 1849;

Thence by descent to Marchesa Bortolina Manfrin Plattis, Galleria Manfrin, no. 47, as ‘Leandro da Ponte called Leandro Bassano’ (her collector's label on the reverse);

Private collection, Dublin, since at least the 1930s;

Until sold, ‘The Property of a Private Trust’, London, Sotheby’s, 27 April 2006, lot 80;
Whence acquired by the present owner.


Catalogo dei quadri esistenti nella Galleria Manfrin in Venezia, Venice 1856, no. 293 (as Jacopo Bassano, Deposizione della Croce, pietra, [W] 21 x [H] 1[second numeral cut off] cm.)

Catalogue Note

This beautiful nocturnal depiction of The Lamentation of Christ is an exquisite example of a painting on 'pietra nera' (slate) by Francesco Bassano, the eldest son of Jacopo Bassano. The artist trained in his father's workshop before leaving for Venice in 1578 where, according to his biographer Ridolfi, he found growing demand for his work. Night scenes such as the present work aroused considerable interest in Venice and contributed significantly to the increased regard for Francesco’s work. His father had set a powerful precedent for crepuscular torchlit scenes with his signed altarpiece of The Deposition dated 1574 for Santa Maria in Vanzo, Padua,yet the young Francesco went on to develop the subject in inventive ways, heightening the drama by setting the scene more explicitly at night.

Francesco’s night pictures were made between the late 1570s and 1585. There were other Venetian examples – for instance in the work of Titian and Tintoretto – but Francesco was able to make a unique contribution in the evolution of this type of picture. In his œuvre, nocturnes found their fullest expression in genre scenes and in the realm of religious paintings. The story of Christ’s Passion – and specifically the Lamentation – were subjects that particularly lent themselves to a nocturnal setting.

The present work can be compared closely in style and handling to a larger painting on slate signed by Francesco representing Christ on the Road to Calvary, today in a European private collection (see Fig. 1).2 Both paintings share in common the similar nervous line with which the artist draws the folds of white drapery and the facial types correspond directly, in particular that of the Virgin, as also the beautiful treatment of gold rays, which remarkably remain intact to this day. Other paintings on slate given by Castellotti to Francesco include two works in a private collection, Milan, which also reveal close stylistic affinities to the present work.3

In Francesco's painting of The Lamentation the artist appears to recall the pose of the limp figure of Christ, with head falling back, from his father's altarpiece in Santa Maria in Vanzo, Padua, which he also employs in other versions of the subject.4 The present design however represents a further elaboration of the theme. Here Christ is no longer carried, but has been set down at the foot of the cross. His inert legs rest one against the other, plunged in darkness, the wound on the upper foot clearly visible. The scene is set at the foot of the cross. Joseph of Arimathaea wraps Christ’s body in a linen sheet while Nicodemus, his head dressed in a turban, steps down from the ladder. The Virgin is the principal mourner, with her companions, Mary Magdalene, who supports her and in the background the other Mary, who stands alongside the sorrowful figure of John the Evangelist.    

The only source of light is a flame. Its rays pick out isolated areas of brilliant colour and select forms from the enveloping darkness, creating deep shadows particularly on Christ’s body. The single light source is used descriptively to draw out distinctive qualities in the picture: tear-stained faces, dishevelled hair, the weave of a wicker basket, sparkling metal surfaces. The effects are heightened by the artist’s choice of slate as a support, its dark colour providing a dramatic natural backdrop, which is used as a ground tone to create a powerfully realistic night scene.

The present composition is known in a number of versions and variants by Jacopo Bassano and his sons. The best known version is by Jacopo: a painting on canvas in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, which Arslan dates to circa 1580–82.5 The present work, much smaller and more tightly composed, appears to be the only recorded adaptation of the subject known to date to have been painted on slate.

Probably some time during the second half of the eighteenth century, the painting entered into the celebrated Manfrin Collection, an exceptional collection of more than four hundred pictures with a particular emphasis on paintings from the Veneto, which was mainly formed by Conte Girolamo Manfrin from circa 1748 until his death in 1801. Manfrin, originally from Friuli, had made his fortune manufacturing tobacco and in around 1787 he bought the Palazzo Venier (which he renamed Palazzo Manfrin), where he was to house his collection. One of the most celebrated private galleries, it was open to the public and listed in most guidebooks of the day. Manfrin was reputedly the leading Venetian collector of his time and acquired paintings avidly until his death in 1801. The dispersal of the collection took place in the nineteenth century, with the largest share of the paintings being sold at auction in Paris in 1870.6 

1. E. Arslan, I Bassano, Milan 1960, 2 vols, vol. I, p. 174; vol. II, fig. 167

2. Oil on slate, 60 by 50 cm., signed centre left: FRANC° BASSANO

3. See M. B. Castellotti et al., Pietra Dipinta, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2000, pp. 35–37, cat. nos 2 and 3 reproduced.

4. See for instance the Deposition in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (no. 263 A), once thought to be a bozzetto by Jacopo but attributed to Francesco by Arslan, op. cit, vol. I, p. 186, p. 225; vol. II, fig. 208.

5. Inv. 433; Arslan attributed it to Francesco, with possibly some workshop participation, although more recently this has been challenged and an attribution to Jacopo proposed. See Arslan, op. cit., vol. I, p. 361; Titien, Tintoret, Véronèse... Rivalités à Venise, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 17 September 2009 – 4 January 2010, cat. no. 84, p. 388, p. 437 n. 146.

6. See 13 and 14 May 1870, sale of the paintings belonging to Marchese Antonio Plattis, Lugt 32049.