The connection to Perugino became more intriguing with the recent reappearance in 2005 of a Pietà of the same composition published by Filippo Todini.3 That panel is of much larger dimensions (89 by 72 cm.) and has been connected to the Pietà painted for the Serristori chapel in Santo Croce, mentioned by Vasari.4 Despite the strict correspondence of the two paintings compositionally, there is no doubt that the two paintings are by different hands. In additional to incidental differences, such as in the landscape and the coloration of the Virgin’s garment, the Serristori painting is much more stolid than the present panel, which has a more refined approach to its execution, natural given its function as a more intimate work of art.
The theme of the Pietà, so familiar in Renaissance art, was a relatively late addition to the iconographical repertoire of Italian artists. It first appears in Sienese painting in the early 14th Century, but did not gain widespread usage until the late 15th Century, at about the time that the present example was painted. Unlike the treatment given the subject by Northern artists, who had embraced it much earlier and in a much more potent and physical way, Italian artists often focused more in the idealization of the human form. In the present panel, this is clearly the case, where the figure of Christ is held upright by the Virgin in an intimate—and thus more touching—pose. His torso is reminiscent of classical sculpture, and indeed the whole composition must have drawn inspiration from Michelangelo’s great Pietà of 1498/9.
1. In a letter dated 10 October, 1975. He dates it “in piena sincronia con la 'Crocifissione' di Londra,” and dismisses an attribution to Perugino in favor of the young Raphael.
2. Todini has formed a small corpus of works by an artist that appears to be a Florentine follower of Perugino, but with an idiosyncratic artistic style, and has grouped as a hypothesis them under the name of Baccio Ubertini, an artist from the large family of painters, which included Bacchiacca (see F. Todini, La Pittura Umbra, 1989, vol. I, 328.
3. F. Todini, “Il Perugino, le sue botteghe e i suoi seguaci,” in Perugino a Firenze: Qualità e fortuna di uno stile, exhibition catalogue, 2005, pp. 64-66, reproduced.
4. G. Vasari, “Vita di Morto da Felyro e Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini,” in Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori, English Edition, translated by G. Du C. de Vere, 1979, p. 1129.
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