Francesco Bassano the Younger
(Bassano del Grappa 1549–1592 Venice)

Christ on the Road to Calvary with the Veil of St Veronica

oil with gold highlighting, on slate
signed ‘FRANCo / BASSo. / .F.(on the wall, near left edge, at centre)
59.5 x 48.5 cm (23.4 x 19. in.)
c. 1585–1590

‘[…] it is impossible to overlook the inventiveness and variety of artists’ approaches toward stone supports, the range of their interests and the will to innovate that led to new and surprising solutions between 1530 and 1630.’

Hana Seifertová, “Introduction,” in Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800, p. 17.

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Son of the famous Jacopo Bassano (1517–1592), Francesco Bassano the Younger was born in 1549 into a well-established artistic family. Francesco trained in his father’s workshop between 1560 and 1570 and father and son collaborated on many grand altarpieces. The Bassano workshop was one of the most active and prolific in 16th-century Venice.1 Francesco’s talent gained him much acclaim in Venice. One of the biggest projects he was ever commissioned, was to paint the four Battles of the Serenissima for the ceiling of the Sala del Maggiore Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, which he executed in the spring and summer of 1578. The following year, Francesco moved to Venice permanently and opened up his own workshop, but maintained a close relationship with his father.

Francesco had an aptitude for nocturnal scenes, lit by moonlight and artificial light effects, which were particularly popular in the lagoon city, this current painting of Christ on the Road to Calvary being a prime example.2 Francesco’s heightened reputation as artist is demonstrated by the royal Spanish ownership of this painting, together with its pendant Christ driving the Moneylenders (private collection). Both pieces were painted on slate in the same technique as developed by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485–1547), of which the Bassano workshop was also a pioneer.3 This pair of paintings on slate was cherished by the intensely pious Spanish King, Philip II (1527–1598), as private devotional pieces and it is known that when the King prayed, he drew back a curtain that covered Francesco’s paintings. The dark tones of the slate were perfectly suited to a nocturnal scene, and simultaneously, the stone support was also used by artists to put emphasis on Christ’s ordeal and add a layer of spiritual meaning to the work.4 The weight of the cross with which Christ was burdened, is echoed by the weight of the stone support. As a painting meant for private devotion, the stone support heightened the sensory experience, creating a deeper connection to and understanding of Christ’s suffering.5

Francesco’s brother Leandro (1557–1622) joined him in Venice in 1588, and together they ran the extensive workshop. Francesco maintained his proclivity for the pastoral scenes, linking the 16th-century Venetian tradition to his father’s inheritance. The last years of Francesco’s life were marked by deep depression and hypochondria and he committed suicide in 1592. His last outstanding commissions were completed by Leandro.6

Notes
1. Judith W. Mann, Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800, exh. cat., Saint Louis, 2020, 112.
2. Livia Alberton Vinco da Sesso, “Bassano Family,” last modified 2010, accessed 25 February 2021, from https://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000006767?rskey=hcY6Yx.
3. Mann, Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800, 120.
4. Judith W. Mann, “Painting on Stone Supports in 16th-Century Rome: From Foundational Issues to Pictorial Ends,” in Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800, Munich & Saint Louis, 2020, 28.
5. Ibid., 22–23.
6. Vinco da Sesso, “Bassano Family.”

Probably in the collection of the Milanese sculptor Pompeo Leoni (c. 1533–1608);
by whom given to Philip II, King of Spain (1527–98), recorded in his posthumous inventory of 1600;
by descent to Philip V (1683–1746) and Isabel Farnesio (1692–1766), recorded in his posthumous inventory of 1747;
Anonymous sale, Saskia, Madrid, 7 May 1974, lot 15 (as ‘Francesco Bassano’);
Private collection, Spain;
The Klesch Collection.

Saint Louis, Saint Louis Museum of Art, ‘Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800’, 20 February – 15 May 2022, no. 12.

Los Bassano en la España del Siglo de Oro, exh. cat., Madrid, 2001, p. 112.
J.W. Mann, ed., Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530–1800, exh. cat., Munich & Saint Louis, 2020, cat. no. 12, p. 120, illustrated in colour p. 121.

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Hover to zoom to maximum level or click to enlarge

Francesco Bassano the Younger
(Bassano del Grappa 1549–1592 Venice)

Christ on the Road to Calvary with the Veil of St Veronica

oil with gold highlighting, on slate
signed ‘FRANCo / BASSo. / .F.(on the wall, near left edge, at centre)
59.5 x 48.5 cm (23.4 x 19. in.)
c. 1585–1590

‘[…] it is impossible to overlook the inventiveness and variety of artists’ approaches toward stone supports, the range of their interests and the will to innovate that led to new and surprising solutions between 1530 and 1630.’

Hana Seifertová, “Introduction,” in Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800, p. 17.

Artwork details