We are grateful to Professor W. Rearick for confirming the attribution to Leandro Bassano on the basis of a transparency (verbal communication 29 March 2000). As such, the present work is a replica -- in both size and medium -- of the Crucifixion in the Museu Nacional d'Arte de Catalunya, Barcelona (Inv. no. 108373). First published by Alessandro Ballarin in 1990 (in the catalogue of the exhibition, Capolavori dal Museo d'Arte de Catalogna, Rome, 1990) and attributed to Leandro's father, Jacopo (c. 1510-1592), the latter work was more recently exhibited in Bassano-del-Grappa (Jacopo Bassano, Museo Civico, 1992, no. 55, catalogue note by Livia Alberton Vinco da Sesso). Ballarin (op. cit.) noted that the composition on slate is in fact a reworking on a smaller scale of the frescoed Crucifixion in Cartigliano executed by Jacopo with his son Francesco in 1575, and he dated it to the same year - the year in which, according to Ballarin, the artist invented a series of nocturnes painted on slate and depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, including The Road to Calvary -- the pendant to the Barcelona Crucifixion -- in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna and The Annunciation to the Shepherds (Národní Galerei, Prague).
The present Crucifixion is compositionally identical to the Barcelona painting. As might be expected, there are fewer secondary figures in the smaller slate versions than in the fresco -- the old man on a donkey and the boy at the foot of the cross in the latter are, for example, eliminated. As da Sesso notes (loc. cit.), this only serves to intensify the tragedy of the scene with the contrast between the grieving women on the left and the soldiers fighting over Christ's robes on the right greatly heightened. The sense of drama is also accentuated by the medium: the slate itself provides the nocturnal backdrop against which the warm red, gold and yellow tones of the figures are artificially lit. In the 1990 exhibition catalogue entry for the Barcelona painting, Ballarin writes of '...the elegant and mysterious filigree of the background, and the subtle web of golden light that everywhere draws together the most artfully created light' - a fine description of the almost magical illumination of the scene and one which can be taken to apply equally to the present work.