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Renaissance Top 48: The Dead Christ


"The Dead Christ" by Mantegna 

  • Tempera on Canvas
    • Pigments, egg yolks, and water
  • 68 cm x 81 cm (27 inches x 32 inches)
  • Located currently in Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan 
  • Found in Mantegna's personal studio and was sold to pay off debts 
  • 1490


Early Renaissance Time Period

  • 15th Century 
  • Artists broke away a lot from the restrictions of Byzantine Art
  • Studied the natural world to perfect their understanding of what they painted 
    • Mostly anatomy and perspective
  • The Death of Christ strayed away from the very colorful paintings during this time period 
  • Realism and perspective 
    • Realism- the depiction of subjects as accurately as possible 
    • Perspective- the way the painting is viewed
      • Atmospheric persepctive- creates depth by blurring lines and details as they get farther away 
      • Linear persepctive- parallel lines that recede into the distance, and reduces relative size of objects


Death of Christ- after Christ was crucified he was taken off the cross and buried in a tomb

  • Seems to be a small and enclosed space
  • Figures
    • Jesus Christ-
      •  dead and laying on the table
      • Heavy corpse 
      • Almost swollen and exaggerated by the foreshortening 
    • Mary-
      • Jesus' mother 
      • the weeping figure all the way to the left, mostly cut off
    • Joseph- 
      • Jesus' father
      • weeping figure closer to Jesus, mostly in the photo
  • Hands and feet with holes in them- Christ was nailed to the cross
  • Pinkish pillow holding up his head 
  • Christ is laying on a slab of marble 
  • Ointment bottle on the edge of the slab
    • Could have been used for funerary purposes
  • Detailed sheet covering Christ's corpse




  •  Tempera on canvas 
    • Tempera was the method of paintings with pigments dispersed in an emulsion mixture with water, and egg yolk
    • Mantegna was known for carving and the sharp lines in The Dead Christ suggests so, but it was not
  • Dimensions- 68 centimeters by 81 centimeters 
  • Chiaroscuro- the effect of contrasted light and shadow created by the painting 
    • Light is coming from the right side of the painting
    • His body
    • The sheets that cover him
    • One side of his face is darker than the other
  • Atmospheric Perspective
  • Severely foreshortens the figure
  • Linear Perspective
    • His body recedes into the distance and his features get smaller 
  • Painting is smooth 
  • The tempera is blended to create depth 
  • Painting now is located in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan
  • Found in Mantegna's personal studio 
  • Realism- representation a person thing or style as accurately as possible
    • Curvature of his abdomen
    • Holes in his hands and feet 
    • Intense and poignant depiction of the bibical scene 
    • Figures to the left are crying and disheveled 


Multitude of possibilities

Mantegna experiemented with difficult perspective problems. He challenged himself to solve these problems.

  • Could have been for the family he served as court painter too
    • Gonzaga family
    • This family commissioned most of his paintings
  • He also painted for other patrons and it could be for them