Christ Carrying the Cross

Christ Carrying the Cross
Artist Titian or Giorgione
Year c. 1508-1509
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Italy
Dimensions 28 in × 36 in
71 cm × 91 cm
Famous Paintings by Titian
Rape of Europa
Sacred and Profane Love
Pastoral Concert
The Assumption of the Virgin
Christ Carrying the Cross
The Flaying of Marsyas
Allegory of Prudence
The Worship of Venus
View Complete Works

Around the year 1508 or 1509, the master Renaissance painter Titian painted an oil painting that is known as Christ Carrying the Cross. The current home of the work is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, an annex to the Church of San Rocco in Venice, Italy. The painting has always been prominently displayed in either the church or the school, one of those rare cases for a relatively major work by a master. It is a relatively small canvas, a little less than a square yard in area, and it was apparently mounted in the church and was an object of veneration.


The actual origins of the painting are somewhat mysterious, and it has even been attributed at times by various historians of art to another Italian painter, Giorgione. Both painters were in an artists’ guild that was connected to the school and the church, both were active in the same era and place, and it is likely that the work was painted expressly for the institution. Another mystery about the oil painting is that it was said to have miraculous curative abilities, having been written about in many historical narratives. Pilgrims would pray in the church at a side altar where the painting was hung, and reported being cured of ailments.


The overall mood of the work is somber and dark. The brightest colors are dull flesh-tones, and the palette is dominated by various shades of brown. Against an almost black background, Christ is shown in semi-profile carrying the cross on his shoulder. As he gazes off to the left, an angry looking executioner tightens a noose of rope around his neck, and another figure slightly behind the executioner looks inwards behind the scene. The composition is in a style that was innovative at the time, a close-up view that eschewed perspective and depth for intimacy and detail. Characteristically for Titian, the painting is full of action, and repose seems far away for the characters depicted.

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