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Golgotha with Christ Nailed to the Cross, c.1700-10

Attributed to Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
Italian, 1675-1741
Oil on canvas
32-3/8 x 46-5/8 in. (82.2 x 118.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on View

This grisaille, or monochromatic painting, is not unique in the oeuvre of Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, one of the most important Venetian history painters of the early eighteenth century. It may be a sketch for a larger composition. It may also be a complete work in its own right as the appreciation for drawings, and for paintings non finito (unfinished), were both subjects of growing appreciation among collectors. Though the liveliness of his brushwork and the flickering light effects would suggest otherwise, Pellegrini’s composition is highly orchestrated. The narrative is divided into four sections along the lines of a diagonal X. Each quadrant reveals a different episode leading towards Christ’s crucifixion in the center foreground. In the sophisticated choreography of figures and virtuoso handling of paint, the overall schema is operatic in its ambition, tempered only by recognition of the wrenching subject.

Pellegrini made many sojourns outside Italy to Austria, France, the Netherlands and England, where his graceful decorations were well-received by Europe’s aristocracy. In this regard, the artist became an important exponent of the Venetian Rococo style throughout Europe.

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