Friday, March 29, 2013

A Crucifixion by Bellini

Giovanni Bellini 1435/40 ca. - 1516
Crocifisso con cimitero ebraico/ Crucifixion in a Jewish cemetery 
Also known as Crocifisso Niccolini di Camugliano
circa 1475-1480 (possibly 1501-02 according to the date on one of the stones painted)
Oil on wood panel
81 x 49 cm
Cassa di Risparmio (Cariprato, gruppo Banca Popolare di Vicenza). Galleria di Palazzo degli Alberti, Prato, Italy

This great work of Bellini is not as well known as it should be. It is in a private collection belonging to an Italian bank

He painted many Crucifixions in his lifetime. This one is out of the ordinary

The city of Jerusalem depicted in the background is a combination of the main features of Venice ad Ancona (San Ciriaco). We also see the campanile of Sant' Apollinare in Classe and Vicenza (the Duomo), all in Italy

It represents a composite, everywhere and nowhere - the celestial Jerusalem

The countryside (between cemetery and city) is depicted with minute detail. Thirty different types of botanical species have been identified so far

The scenery is typical of the Veneto

The  cemetery is outside the city walls of the celestial Jerusalem. 

Apart from Christ there is no human being. There are no thieves being crucified. No Roman soldiers. Mary, John and the companions are absent. The trees for other crucifixions are dead. In the cemetery Death appears to be victorious over Man

But Christ by his death triumphs on Golgotha over Death. Death is destroyed.

To get to the "Celestial Jerusalem", one seems to have to travel past and through the Crucifixion

The work was originally in the ownership of the Colonna family