Rosso Fiorentino was one of the primary practitioners of the highly refined and decorative sixteenth-century style now known as Mannerism. It is characterized by strong, unusual colors; crowded or ambiguous space; and elongated, often twisting figures. Rosso painted this altarpiece in Rome for his...
Rosso Fiorentino was one of the primary practitioners of the highly refined and decorative sixteenth-century style now known as Mannerism. It is characterized by strong, unusual colors; crowded or ambiguous space; and elongated, often twisting figures. Rosso painted this altarpiece in Rome for his friend Leonardo Tornabuoni, the bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro. Rosso's admiration of Michelangelo's recently painted frescoes on the Sistine Ceiling is reflected in the muscular nude body of Christ. One of very few surviving works by this exceptional artist, the painting is also unusually well preserved.
Lower right, on bench: R U B E VS FLO F A CIEB A T
About 1524/1527, commissioned by Bishop Leonardo di Lorenzo Tornabuoni (b. about 1494 - d. 1540), Rome; 1527, still in the artist's possession [see note 1]. By 1550, Giovanni della Casa (b. 1503 - d. 1556); until at least 1568, by descent within the Della Casa family [see note 2]. About 1812/1819, acquired in Italy by Charles IV, King of Spain (b. 1748 - d. 1819), Rome; 1820, sent to Spain [see note 3] and passed by inheritance to his son, Infante Francisco de Paula (b. 1794 - d. 1865), Madrid; probably by descent to his daughter, Infanta Maria Cristina (b. 1833 - d. 1902) and her husband, Infante Sebastián Gabriel Borbón y Braganza (b. 1811 - d. 1875), Pau, France and Madrid [see note 5]; 1837, confiscated from Braganza by Isabella II, Queen of Spain (b. 1830 - d. 1904) [see note 6]; by 1868, returned by the Queen of Spain to Sebastián Gabriel Borbón y Braganza [see note 7]; 1875, by inheritance to his widow, Infanta Maria Cristina de Borbón y Braganza (b. 1833 - d. 1902), Madrid; October, 1902, posthumous Borbón y Braganza sale, JPGM, Madrid, lot 44, not sold; until 1958, by descent within the family to Infante Don Enrique Bourbón, Madrid. 1958, Rudolf J. Heinemann (dealer, b. 1902 - d. 1975), New York; 1958, sold by Heinemann to the MFA for $85,000. (Accession Date: June 5, 1958) NOTES:  According to Giorgio Vasari, Rosso executed a Dead Christ with Angels for his friend, Leonardo Tornabuoni, who was the bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro ("In questo tempo fece al Vescovo Tornabuoni amico suo un quadro d'un Cristo Morto, sostenuto da due Angeli"; see "Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori," ed. Gaetano Milanesi [Florence: Sansoni, 1880], vol. 5, p. 162). It was probably intended for an altar in San Sepolcro, but was never installed; instead, it remained in the artist's possession. In September 1527, it was in the custody of a nun at the convent of San Lorenzo in Panisperna, Rome. As attested in a document of September 29, 1527, the artist, at that time in San Sepolcro, attempted to recuperate the panel -- described as a Pietà with the figure of Christ surrounded by angels -- and other of his possessions from the nun; with all probability this can be identified with the MFA painting. It is possible that Rosso had left his belongings with her just prior to the sack of Rome in May, 1527. Whether the panel was returned to Rosso is unknown, but it seems unlikely, since it was in Rome by 1550 and had, therefore, probably remained there (see below, n. 2). See David Franklin, "Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino" (New Haven, 1994), 139-142; the 1527 document is transcribed on p. 309.  In the first edition of Vasari's "Vite de' più eccellenti pittori..." (1550), the painting is said to be owned by Giovanni della Casa ("oggi è appresso Monsignor della Casa"). The second edition (1568) states that it is with his heirs ("oggi è appresso agli eredi di monsignor Della Casa").  The identification of the MFA painting with the Dead Christ by Rosso Fiorentino listed in Charles IV's posthumous inventory was made by Gabriele Finaldi, "Works by Alessandro Turchi for Spain and an unexpected Velázquez connection," Burlington Magazine 149 (November, 2007): 758, n. 57.  Arturo Perera, "Carlos IV, 'Mecenas' y coleccionista de obras de arte," Arte Español 1958, pp. 28, 30.  In 1835, it was listed in his inventory, "Galería de Pinturas del Serenísimo Señor Ynfante Don Sebastian Gabriel," 1835, no. 181 (attributed to Fosquini). Archivo de Palacio, Sección Histórica, caja 123, as cited by Mercedes Agueda, "La colleción e pinturas del infante Don Sebastián Gabriel," Boletín del Museo del Prado, III, 8 (1982), p. 113.  In 1837, Sebastián Gabriel Maria de Borbón y Braganza's possessions were confiscated for political reasons and the paintings were exhibited in the Museo de la Trinidad.  The painting was returned to Braganza when he recognized Isabella II as the Queen of Spain.
Charles Potter Kling Fund