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Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Collegiate Church - Jacopo Negretti known as Palma the Younger, Crucifixion with Saint Peter, Saint Anthony the Abbot and Saint Elpidius


The altarpiece by Jacopo Negretti known as Palma the Younger was almost certainly commissioned by relatives of a certain Palmerocco Palmerocchi who in his will had expressed his keen desire to furnish the family chapel with a fine painting. Painted in 1590, about twenty-four years after the testamentary legacy, the painting on scaffolded canvas was located in the Collegiate Church of Sant’Elpidio a Mare, in the chapel on the left of the high altar. Observing the work, the conservative imprint of the artist of Venetian origin is evident, and the traces left by the places he worked in during his training are clear. His inclination for art was inherited from his great-uncle Palma the Older and from his maternal uncle Bonifacio de’ Pitati. It was initially developed through the study of the painting methods of Raphael, Michelangelo and Tintoretto, then by attending the lively circle of the Della Rovere family in Urbino, where he became fascinated by the “modern manner” of Rome.


Later he went back to Venice and some important commissions enabled him to establish himself all over the area around Venice, so much so that he was asked to finish personally the Pietà by Titian, which had been left uncompleted at the latter's death. In a central position, the crucifixion of Christ recalls very closely that by Tintoretto painted around 1567 and currently conserved in Venice, at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. There is a strong influence of the Venetian colouring tradition and the play of light and shade projected on the massive body of the Saviour is masterly. These elements highlight the muscular tension of Christ compared to his face which is completely in shade. It is evident that Jacopo Negretti knew of the expressive use that Titian and Tintoretto had made of it. At the foot of the Cross, Saint Peter, Saint Anthony the Abbot and Saint Elpidius are kneeling. While the first is easily identifiable from his short beard, his hoary hair and the bunch of keys placed by the edge of his vermilion robe, the second on the far right is recognisable for his bell, his typical iconographic attribute. The third can be identified as the patron saint of the town of that name from the armour in which he - on whom little hagiographic information is available - is generally depicted. Above the cross, the Holy Spirit is descending with angels depicted with dynamism of a typically manneristic style. The Eternal Father is depicted as with one hand he blesses the Son and with the other he grips the celestial sphere that alludes to the entire universe subject to his almighty divine control.