Bramante was trained in Urbino, a center of mathematical studies where the use of perspective had been developed as a form of controlled organization of painted space. Moving to Milan, he took this research further, seeking visual and illusionistic effects that were intended to stir the emotions of the observer: the Christ at the Column can be considered a manifesto of this innovative language, which allowed Lombard artistic culture to adopt unprecedented solutions in the Renaissance mold.
On his arrival at the court of Ludovico il Moro, Bramante worked as an architect at Santa Maria presso San Satiro, where the lack of physical space in which to locate the hemicycle of the chancel led him to create a fake vault in stucco that simulated a spatial extension of the walls of the church: the same idea of space created through trompe-l’oeil constitutes the main theme of the painting in Brera, where a number of compositional devices – the sculptural body occupying the foreground, the window, the pillar extending beyond the physical limits of the picture – suggest the existence of a large room in which Christ is being tormented.
Bramante was stimulated by his encounter with the works of Leonardo, who was painting the Last Supper in Milan and investigating the communicative potential of movements of the body and expressions of the face: thus in the Christ at the Column the sculptural plasticity derived from the culture of Urbino is enriched with details of naturalism, such as the constriction of the flesh by the bindings and the transparent tears, whose effects on the emotions of observers were something for which no allowance had been made in Bramante’s training. It was probably executed in the early 1490s.
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“To the left, brightness, vitality, to the right, shadow, oblivion. Christ stands between, gazing into the dark. Follow his eyes, over your shoulder, where death waits. No halo he is not yet aureate, but the anguished tranquility of his gaze shows us where he is going. Light is time. This is a respite between two worlds, but the shadow of the chalice passes across his yet-unmarked flesh, sure as a chain, pulling him into the black. He will endure the darkness for us.”
AUTHOR Donato Bramante (Donato di Pascuccio)
DATE 1490 - 9
OBJECT TYPE AND MATERIAL Oil on panel
DIMENSIONS 93,7 × 62,5
INVENTORY Deposito Abbazia di Chiaravalle
Work on display
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