A native of Romagna, Bernardino shared a bottega with his brother Francesco until the beginning of the 1510s, when they officially separated. Bernardino stayed in Imola, where he is documented from 1494, while Francesco set up a new workshop in Ravenna. Though they likely trained together, they would eventually develop distinct styles – Bernardino's figures tend to be finer and more graceful, with a greater sense of volume compared to those of his brother (see R. Soli, 'Sul problema di Francesco e Bernardino Zaganelli’, Arte antica e moderna, XXXI, 1965, pp. 223-224 and R. Zama, Gli Zaganelli (Francesco e Bernardino) pittori, Rimini, 1994). Bernardino’s paintings are informed by those of Perugino, as well as Ferrarese artists in the circle of Ercole de Roberti. The rediscovery of a document in which Bernardino’s pregnant but widowed wife is mentioned, fixes his death in 1519. His last signed and dated work is the Saint Sebastian in the National Gallery, London, of 1506, which leaves thirteen years of mature work to investigate.
The intimate scale of this refined little panel suggests that it was intended for private devotion. Saint Jerome kneels at right, dressed in white robes. The saint kneeling opposite him, however, is more difficult to identify. His black habit indicates he is an Augustinian saint, and the cardinal's capa magna points us toward Saint Bonaventure, though he would typically wear the brown habit of the Franciscan order. The prominent wound on his side, however, would seem to rule out this identification. The three figures are conceived with a naturalistic tenderness that places this work in the mature phase of Bernardino’s career. In the distant background, a cityscape is just visible beneath a mountainous landscape that evokes the steep crags of San Leo and San Marino in the artist's homeland. Indeed, the fine handling of the background details and vegetation are distinguishing features of Bernardino’s art, as well as the tendency to create compositions in which the principal figures enjoy an interconnectedness that is not seen in the works of his brother, all of which are fully on display in this poignant Crucifixion.