If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:23

Rosso Fiorentino, the Dead Christ with Angels

Video transcript

where do you go after the perfection of the high Renaissance exactly if you're an artist in the 1520's looking back at for example Michelangelo's David or Raphael's frescoes in the papal palace how could art be more perfect than it had been made by Michelangelo and Raphael and Leonardo so the style that develops in the courts of Rome immediately after the high Renaissance a period that we call mannerism is defying in fact the strictures of that perfection and is looking towards a kind of virtuosity that has to do with distortion and remaking a form mannerism is borrowing from the high Renaissance but as you said it's changing it and distorting it we can see that in one of the great treasures of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by painting by Rosso Ferrentino this painting shows the dead Christ with angels normally we would see much more of an emphasis on Christ's suffering and on the angels mourning the dead body of Christ it's not unusual in manners paintings for us to have elements that are hard to figure out where the iconography has been changed he's really minimized the usual clues we have about Christ's suffering we can't easily see the wounds in Christ's hands or feet even the wound in his side that Christ received while he was on the cross seems devoid of blood all that it's unusual normally an artist would present us with those attributes and really have us meditate on Christ's physical suffering and we're not given those clues here even the angels don't seem to be mourning as they might be in more traditional paintings you can see we're also playing fast and loose in a number of different ways in this painting not only do you have Christ this very large figure in fact almost too large for the size of this canvas surrounded by the four angels that seem almost too close but you have this very indeterminant space pushed very close to the foreground and you have distortions in the relation of the scale of the bodies look at the size and this mass weight of this Dead Christ in relationship to those angels in the background Christ seems way too large almost like he's going to break out of the space that he's in it's been suggested that there's not so much emphasis on Christ's suffering here because there's more of an interest in the idea of Christ's resurrection and perhaps that idea of him breaking the bounds or the confines of this canvas suggests that idea well certainly the two torches held by the Angels are a traditional symbol of the resurrection so that absolutely works but Christ is so interesting here because there's a real sensuality to that body it's a beautiful body and it's got this elegant curvature to it and yet it's also dead and kind of yellow and it's not unusual for Mannerist artists to make art to make paintings based on other paintings and we definitely see that here in the way that also recalls Michelangelo's figures on the Sistine ceiling look at his right thigh it doesn't make any sense it's impossibly long the way that it connects to his hip doesn't seem anatomically plausible and the length to the knee doesn't seem anatomically plausible and even the other thigh is too large for the torso we have a really hard time figuring out how those feet would carry the weight of this body in fact how he's being supported at all so those distortions that you're talking about we've seen so much Mannerist work you might think of parmesan a nose the Madonna of the long neck for example but it's not that this is a mistake it's a manners artist like we're also we're restructuring the body in order to express not only their virtuosity but in a sense to be able to manipulate form as if it was a plastic medium and perhaps to heighten the spirituality of the moment maybe by exaggerating the body or by elongating it or twisting it there's a sense of transcending the earthly in the physical and stylistically we can certainly say that manners artist transcended the strictures the perfection of the high Renaissance you