Spasimo di Sicilia (1515-1516)

Raffaello (1483-1520) & Workshop

Spasimo di Sicilia, Andata al Calvario (Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary)
Oil on panel transferred to canvas, 318 x 229 cm
Museo del PradoMadrid

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Jacopo Basilio commissioned this painting for the Monastery of Santa Maria dello Spasimo in Palermo, from which it derives its popular name, lo Spasimo di Sicilia (“The Wonder of Sicily)”, which reflects Raphael‘s interest in the depiction of extreme physical and psychological states. This work’s rhetorical tone and complex yet clear composition around two diagonals that converge on the figure of Christ, recall tapestry cartoons for the Vatican. Critics have pointed out Raphael‘s debt to the Nordic engravings of Schöngauer, Dürer and Lucas of Leyden. The Wonder reveals the Church’s official position in the debate as to the nature of the Virgin’s pain during Christ’s Passion by showing her suffering and compassionate, but conscious, without fainting. This work was highly praised from the moment it was painted, and numerous, though not always credible, stories have been spun around it. Recently, questions have been raised as to the veracity of Vasari‘s narration of the shipwreck it suffered during its transportation. That story is considered too close to the miraculous circumstances surrounding the arrival of one of Sicily‘s most famous images —Tranani’s Annunziata— during the Middle Ages. The Viceroy of Sicily managed to get this work ceded to Felipe IV, who had it hung on the main altarpiece of the chapel at Madrid‘s Alcázar Palace. It is signed in the center of the lower edge over a stone. (MNP)

Santa Maria dello Spasimo (Palermo) | Sicilia (Italia)