An Interesting Mid 19thC European School Oil on Canvas of the Deposition of Christ

Origin: European School
Period: Mid/Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1850-70 (The stamp 1878-1882 as dated by Winsor & Newton)
Canvas Height: 30.25 inches
Canvas Width: 25 inches

Painted in oils laid down on a later board, signed lower right, depicting the deposition of Christ from the Gospels' accounts of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus showing Christ being taken down from the cross after his crucifixion survives from continental Europe.

The condition of the painting is unrestored, uncleaned and unframed and is in as found order. There are scratches and small areas of loss with th canvas having been laid down there are areas of loss to its edges. The painting is decorative as is but could be extensively cleaned, restored and reframed is so desired.

The reverse of the picture shows a more recent hand having hand copied some information from the original frame, which presumably was too far damaged to have been saved; “E.S.K. G.R Prepared by Windsor & Newton, 38 Rathbone Place, London W. 3438333….Copied from rear of canvas” The mount is modern MDF and we presume the artwork it was saved from being destroyed completely due to the original frame, stretcher being too far damaged, or perhaps lost. There is an indistinct signature to the lower right in scarlet paint ‘V B esson(?)’ The first letters of VB are more clear, though the rest are indecipherable at this present time. We have contacted Winsor and Newton and they have been able to date the details to the reverse to the years 1878-1882.

Images in this genre are sometimes called "The Deposition," or sometimes "The Descent from the Cross." The removal of Christ's body is recounted very briefly in each of the Gospels: In the evening after the Crucifixion, a wealthy disciple named Joseph of Arimathea obtains permission to take Jesus' body and prepares it for interment. In John's Gospel he is assisted by Nicodemus.

Medieval images of the Deposition of Christ often show Mary kissing her son's right arm, as at left, or his face whilst other common features include angels and skulls. The skulls refer to the hill of Golgotha ("the place of the skull"), where Christ was crucified. Dramatis personae include Mary always and John the Evangelist usually. In paintings and illuminations Mary is normally accompanied by the other women disciples, as at left, and sometimes Mary Magdalene is prominent among them and sometimes there is a crowd. In many instances an older man in a full gray beard is at work getting the body off the cross, as we see in this picture, sometimes assisted by a second, younger man. Presumably these are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus respectively. John and the women do not assist in the removal of the body.

Caravaggio‘s Entombment 1602-04 (Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City) is one of the most famous pictures of this subject matter and presents a symbiosis between an emotionally strung theme and a monolithic, balanced composition. Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael and Rembrandt all also famously painted the Deposition of Christ.

This is pure dramatic religious artwork for your moody interior where suffering is elevated to be hugely aesthetically pleasing.