Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, called Il Nosadella (Bologna 1530 - Bologna 1571)

The Dead Christ with Angels

Oil on panel.
26.2 x 38.5 cm. (10 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)

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The correct attribution of this panel, previously attributed to the Lombard painter Giulio Cesare Procaccini (1574-1625), is due to Jürgen Winkelmann, who first published the painting in 1976. Winkelmann compared this small painting stylistically to the late works of the 1560’s by Nosadella, in particular an Annunciation now in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum, as well as the artist’s final work, the Circumcision in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bologna, completed by Fontana after his death. Winkelmann also found echoes of the present work in a painting of the same subject by Nosadella’s Bolognese contemporary, Lorenzo Sabatini (1530-1576), today in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna.

As Winkelmann wrote of this Dead Christ with Angels, ‘There are echoes of Bronzino in the precise sculptural modelling of the body of Christ and in the knots of the supple loincloth, but these elements had already been resolved following the cerebral and stylistic feats of the [Princeton] Annunciation, even while the tomb made up of protruding stones, still a very archaic quattrocento motif, forms an appropriate space to contain the relief-like and strongly modelled figure of the dead Christ, who is represented in the guise of an ancient athlete.’

Winkelmann continues; ‘It is important to note how, in this small-scale work, the artist manages to express the musical and lyrical element of his art with an intensely sentimental mood...Rather than linking it to Nosadella’s late phase as in the altarpiece of Santa Maria Maggiore, one prefers to relate this noteworthy and exquisite display of elegant devotion in a small format, to the astonishingly shrewd style – alas misunderstood in Bologna, perhaps due to its being somewhat tied to the past and at the same time a harbinger of a new language – which emanates from the [Princeton] Annunciation.’

Several years later, Jürgen Winkelmann returned to the subject of this small painting, writing that ‘In the last years of his life, Nosadella left behind an almost spiritual testimonial in The Dead Christ Mourned by Angels...The work is steeped in a poignant lyricism, despite being designed according to a rigid perspectival system. It is not only 15th century perspective that is re-evoked sentimentally, but also all the pictorial traditions of the past admired by the artist, from those of Parma to those of Ferrara. The jutting stones of the tomb can therefore be understood as self-quotations, which recall the sharp design of the steps in the Princeton Annunciation, even if in the Dead Christ this detail is more material.’

Provenance:
The Arcade Gallery, London, in 1965 (as Giulio Cesare Procaccini)
Daniel Katz, London.

Literature:
The Burlington Magazine, November 1965, pl.LVI (as Giulio Cesare Procaccini); Jürgen Winkelmann, ‘Sul problema Nosadella-Tibaldi’, Paragone, July-September 1976, pp.111-112, pl.83 (as location unknown); Elisabetta Sambo, ‘Tibaldi e Nosadella’, Paragone, September 1981, p.18 (as location unknown); Jürgen Winkelmann, ‘Giovanni Francesco Bezzi detto il Nosadella’, in Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio, ed., Pittura bolognese del '500, Bologna, 1986, Vol.II, pp.461-462, illustrated p.474 (as location unknown).

Giovanni Francesco Bezzi NOSADELLA

The Dead Christ with Angels

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