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The Virgin Contemplating Instruments of the Passion

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

The Virgin Contemplating Instruments of the Passion

Artist: Vicente Carducho (attributed) (Italian, 1570–1638, active in Spain 1585-1638)
Culture: Spanish; Italian, Florentine
Date: c. 1620–1630
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
52 5/8 × 43 1/2 × 4 inches (133.7 × 110.5 × 10.2 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase with funds provided by the John A. Schwarz III and Anita Eerdmans Schwarz Family Endowment Fund
Label Text:In this painting we see the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, inside the tomb after Christ’s death, a scene that does not take place in the Bible. Here, the artist depicts the reaction of the Mother of God confronted with the bloodied nails that held her son on the cross and the painful crown of thorns he wore. The items are carefully arranged on a pure white cloth and placed on a stone ledge, suggesting Christ’s tomb. The Virgin lifts her arms in a gesture signifying surprise, awe, and adoration in recognition of her son’s suffering. Her red eyes and tears express her agonized sorrow. The dramatic contrast of light and dark, typical of Baroque imagery, enhances the painting’s emotional impact; a strong light accents Mary’s hands, lower face, and the still life of holy relics in the foreground, while the rest of the image is in half-shadow or complete darkness.

This work has recently been attributed to Vicente Carducho, who was appointed painter to King Philip III of Spain in 1609. Born and trained in Florence, Italy, Carducho went to Spain in 1585 with the second wave of Italian artists imported to decorate El Escorial, the enormous complex built by Philip II containing a monastery, church, college, library, and the royal palace. Carducho enjoyed enormous success during his lifetime, and was the artist of choice for commissions in religious houses in and around Madrid. He created a range of paintings, from large altarpieces to smaller devotional works, such as this, which could have been intended for a private convent chapel or a private collector’s oratory.
Provenance: Purchased September 15, 2008 through (Galerie Koller, Zurich) by (Christopher Gonzalez-Aller, Madrid); purchased July 2011 by Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 2011.2.1