Monday, March 22, 2010

Christ with Joseph of Arimathea

Title: Christ with Joseph of Arimathea

Artist: Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

Medium: Oil on wood

Size: 105 x 192 cm

Date: c. 1525

Location: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland.

According to the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy Israelite, a good and a just man who was looking for the kingdom of God. He is described by St. Mark a bouleutes, literally, "a senator", whereby is meant a member of the Sanhedrin or supreme council of the Jews. He was a disciple of Jesus, probably ever since Christ's first preaching in Judea, but he did not declare himself as such. On account of this allegiance to Jesus, he did not consent to His condemnation by the Sanhedrin, and was most likely absent from the meeting which sentenced Jesus to death. The crucifixion of his Master quickened Joseph's faith and love.

In this painting, aside from an amorphous, cloudy sky, Savoldo eliminated the background entirely and reduced the narrative to the two monumental figures, brought to the front of the picture plane. These qualities surely had a great impact on Caravaggio, who initially trained in Northern Italy, where Savoldo spent his career. This work originally hung over a large altarpiece, which explains the unusual perspective, the panel’s horizontal shape, and the figures’ position above the viewer.

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, also called Girolamo da Brescia (c. 1480-1485 – c. 1548) was an Italian High Renaissance painter. Savoldo was born in Brescia, but little is known about his early years. By 1506 he was in Parma, and by 1508, he had joined the Florentine painter’s guild. Savoldo may have spent some years of his life in Milan. He had a Dutch wife. The exact date of Savoldo's death is not known: in 1548 he was cited as still living in Venice, though vecchione ("Very old").

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