We are grateful to both Marco Tanzi and Filippo Maria Ferro for independently endorsing the attribution of this Ecce Homo to Tanzio. This subject, and the small scale devotional nature of this panel is unique within Tanzio's oeuvre. Both Ferro and Tanzi propose a date of execution to the mid 1620's, the moment at which Tanzio emerges from the dominating influence of Caravaggio. During this mature period Tanzio looked more the early Baroque style, and to Daniele Crespi in particular whose work of the early 1620s shared Tanzio's move toward stark, simple narratives and new clarity of form. Tanzio's Visitation in the Church of San Brizio, Vagna, is known to date from these same years and is consistent with this Ecce Homo in its modeling and tonality.1 The face of Saint Joseph in the Vagna Visitation, depicted in half shadow behind the figure of Elizabeth, turned slightly and so in three-quarter view, is particularly comparable to this depiction of Christ, not only in the angle of his tilted head, but also in the highlights of his skyward looking eyes, and the painterly furrowed brow.
Tanzio's painstaking rendering of the texture of Christ's skin, of the saline blurring under His eyes and of the glistening blood and sweat, evoke within the onlooker a degree of empathy and spiritual contemplation that prove this panels just worth as a private devotional image. It's mystical fervor evokes the works of Tanzio's Spanish and Flemish contemporaries that he likely encountered in his aforementioned travels. Ferro notes particularly the influence of Dieric Bouts's painting that is regarded as a reliquary at the Church of Sacro Monte, in Varallo. In the same church a polychrome wood figure of Christ of 1510 by Tanzio's neighbor, the painter and sculptor Gaudenzio Ferrari, must have inspired Tanzio in his rendering of this emotive Ecce Homo (fig. 1).
1. See M.B. Castellotti, Tanzio da Varallo; realism fevore e contemplazione in un pittore del Seicento, exh. cat., Milan 2000, p. 121, cat. no. 25, reproduced p. 122-3.
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