The "Deposition of Christ in the Tomb," an unpublished masterpiece by Girolamo Romanino, is probably the most important painting to have appeared on the Italian Old Masters market in recent years. The work, a superb oil on canvas measuring 102×80 cm, will be auctioned on Thursday, April 27, 2023 at Bertlami Fine Art auction 256.

(Brescia, 1484 ca. – 1566 ca.)
Deposizione di Cristo nel sepolcro
Olio su tela, 102×80 cm
Il dipinto è accompagnato dall’Attestato di Libera Circolazione

In the year of Bergamo and Brescia as Italian Capitals of Culture, from the art market comes the unexpected gift of a surprising, completely unpublished work added to the catalog of one of the greatest Italian artists of the 1500s, Brescian Girolamo Romanino.

Published in the catalog of Bertolami Fine Art's forthcoming Old Masters auction, the painting is a masterpiece of certain authorship by Girolamo Romanino, a spearhead of 16th-century Lombard painting and a sublime and highly original protagonist of the art of the time of Raphael and Michelangelo, known to aficionados as the author of the "Sistine Chapel of the Poor," a portentous cycle of frescoes on the theme of the Passion of Christ painted by the painter in the 1630s on the walls of a church in Pisogne, a small town in the Camonica Valley near Brescia.

The belated but uncontested recognition of a masterpiece in the public eye

Among the peculiarities that make the painting worthy of the highest interest is that of an anomalous critical affair. Says Luca Bortolotti, head of Bertolami Fine Art's Old Masters department, "In the field of ancient art, overly generous attributions are wasted. In the case, however, of this superb oil on canvas, which already on first observation denounces the qualities of the masterpiece, things have at first gone in the direction of a surprising underestimation. Described in its previous passages on the market as an anonymous work of the Lombard school of the 16th century, it has recently been submitted by its present owner to the separate judgment of the two greatest experts on the painting of that area, Alessandro Nava and Francesco Frangi, and by both without perplexity recognized as a sure work by Girolamo Romanino. None of the long-standing, passionate controversy that usually divides the scholarly community in the presence of such important attributions accompanied the discovery, which was taken by all for certain."

Nava and Frangi, the latter in the process of publishing a study on the work, also agree in placing it at the pinnacle of Romanino's production, the supreme master of the felicitous conjunction established between Venetian and Lombard painting in the years when the eastern sector of Lombardy was the territory of the Serenissima. A master of vast and up-to-date figurative culture, capable of translating the influence inevitably exerted by the magisterium of the coeval Venetian art scene into a language, utterly original, of pronounced drama and rough realism entirely devoid of idealizing filters.  

(Brescia, c. 1484-c. 1566).
Deposition of Christ in the tomb
Details of the faces of John the Evangelist and Joseph of Arimathea

Rare iconography and typical features of Romanino's style

As always anticlassical and unconventional, Romanino relies in this his rediscovered masterpiece on an unusual iconography: not the classical Deposition from the Cross, but a Deposition in the Tomb. The subject, perfectly in tune with the artist's inclination toward the tragic register, is here masterfully interpreted thanks to the invention of a claustrophobic composition in which the figures of the protagonists-the livid body of Christ, the Virgin distraught with grief, John the Evangelist and Joseph of Arimathea-gianticize in close-up compressed into a dimension without space.

Even the physiognomies of the characters, their expressionistic postures and skillful color palette appear typical of the style of an artist who can be considered the other side of the best Italian painting of the 1500s, the counterbalance of his perfect peer Raphael, as well as the most illustrious, intriguing and mysterious of the progenitors of that realist line that would flow into the art of Caravaggio. 

Girolamo Romanino's Deposition of Christ in the Tomb-an important new addition to our knowledge of 16th-century Italian art-will be on view with the other lots in the auction until April 26 in the rooms of Palazzo Caetani Lovatelli. An appointment not to be missed.



April 27, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. CEST

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