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Christ Blessing

Marco d'Oggiono

(Oggiono c. 1470 - c. 1530)

Given in 1611 by Paul V to his nephew Scipione Borghese, this panel came into the gallery with the name of Leonardo da Vinci, an attribution that has remained unchanged until recently, when it was unanimously attributed to Marco d'Oggiono. The work's affiliation to Leonardo's dictates is so strong that the critics assumed that it derived from a prototype by the Master; on the other hand, it is likely that the painting is the full development of inspirations from a series of sketches left by Leonardo and personally reinterpreted by the artist.  The iconographic style of the work is evocative, drawing the image from the Byzantine tradition of the 'Christ Pantocrator', whose right hand gesture alludes to the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The proximity to Leonardo's style is solidly confirmed in the meticulous and faithful rendering of the earth's surface, updated using the new knowledge acquired by the explorations at the end of the century.

Object details

Inventory
435
Location
Date
late 15th - early 16th century
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on panel
Dimensions
cm 33 x 36
Provenance

Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, 1611 (Della Pergola 1955); Inv. 1693, room IV, no. 52; Inv. 1790, room II, no. 52; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 39; purchased by the Italian State, 1902

 

Exhibitions
  • 1930 Londra,
  • 2000-2001 Milano, Palazzo Reale;
  • 2009 Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art;
  • 2010 Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum;
  • 2012 Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni;
  • 2019-2020 Parigi, Museo del Louvre.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1964-1965 Alvaro Esposti (rimozione della vernice ingiallita; ripresa a tempera di piccole lacune)

Commentary

This painting was given by Paul V to his nephew Scipione Borghese in 1611, as we know from a signed document dated 23 May 1611: ‘A picture painted by the famed Leonardo da Vinci of the Saviour holding the world in his hand, that was in the Vatican’. Believed at the time of the gift to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci, this attribution held until 1855 when Burckhardt rejected it in favour of a follower of Leonardo, followed in 1878 by Lübke, according to whom the painting was unquestionably inspired by the great artist. The first to attribute this small work to Marco d'Oggiono was Frizzoni (1869), a proposal accepted, with the exception of Marcora (1976), by all subsequent scholars and in particular Paola della Pergola, who published the painting in 1955 with an attribution to the Leonardesque artist in the catalogue of the Galleria Borghese’s paintings.

In 1989, on the basis of cartographic details, Sedini dated the work to the last decade of the fifteenth century and no later than 1498 due to a few stylistic similarities to the work of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. This theory was accepted by Marani (see Herrmann Fiore 2000), who had previously (1987) dated the work to about 1519, and Shell (1998) who, like Venturi (1942), considered this Salvator Mundi to be ‘one of the finest paintings by Marco d’Oggiono’, noting evidence of familiarity with the Madonna lactans now in the City Art Gallery, Auckland and the Virgin in the Louvre.

According to Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2000), Marco d’Oggiono’s composition was inspired by Antonello da Messina, as suggested not only by the way the figure stands out from the dark background but also the palette and refined metallic light defining the curls, the perspectival rendering of the left hand and the illumination of the fingers, all details that can be found in the San Cassiano Altarpiece painted by Antonello in 1475 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). The scholar cautiously left it an open question whether the artist had drawn on a model by Leonardo, described in a letter from Isabella d’Este in 1504, or whether he had used some sketches and drawings by the master, as previously suggested by Paola Della Pergola (1955).

The painting depicts a young, half-length Christ holding a globe in his left hand and raising his right in a blessing gesture. The composition is linked iconographically to the Salvator Mundi, which presents Christ as the saviour of the world and is rooted in the Byzantine tradition, made popular by Flemish painters and widespread in Venice. According to Herrmann Fiore (2000), the globe also references images of young emperors from antiquity, since it is not topped by a cross and nor is it a glass sphere alluding to the whole world.

A copy of this painting, of inferior quality, was noted by Sedini (1989) in the collection of the Cassa di Risparmio di Piacenza e Vigevano, while there is a variant of the Saviour with a Globe, stylistically close to the work of Marco d’Oggiono, in Naples (San Domenico Maggiore).

Antonio Iommelli




Bibliography
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