Descent from the Cross
Luca Cambiaso, Italian, Descent from the Cross, ca. 1570, Pen and ink, brush and wash on laid paper; 41.9 x 28.7 cm (16 1/2 x 11 5/16 inches), Gift of Miss Ellen D. Sharpe 50.298
To our eyes, this compositional study appears strikingly modern with its cubistic rendering of forms and summary abstraction of faces, yet the prolific Genovese artist, Luca Cambiaso, produced this drawing in the late sixteenth century. Cambiaso’s powerful and rapid graphic shorthand reflects his use of models made of clay or wax and the existence of a thriving workshop in which apprentices used his drawings to transfer general compositional outlines to canvas or board. Cambiaso himself painted the detailed facial expressions, textures, and effects of light. Although his graphic style may be called revolutionary, the composition itself sits firmly within Renaissance conventions: it exhibits a pyramidal composition and a traditional rendering of the swooning Virgin Mary and the kneeling Mary Magdalene at Christ’s descent from the Cross.