Christ before Pilate
(Lionello Spada)


The authorship of this painting reveals a composite cultural influence in which two apparently unreconcilable elements interact, namely that of Bolognese Carraccism and that of Caravaggism. The ‘close up’ view of the event portrayed as if for a genre scene may so attributed to the latter, as also the acute and almost exhibitionist interest in costume details which borders on the exotic. The Carraccesque influence accounts for the bright chromatic colouring and the graduated progression from light to shade, bathing the picture in a liquid light without detriment to the tradition of ‘bel disegno’.

The painting can be attributed to the artist Lionello Spada, who, having grown up under the influence of Lucovico Carracci was then to discover Caravaggism during the course of a journey he made to Rome in 1610 and which was subsequently extended to Malta, where he felt the full impact of the caravaggesque movement which at that time was being diffused by a number of enormously talented followers, such as Manfredi, who, however retained a more conventional approach to their compositions. These influences and memories were to be the determining factor of Spada’s activity after his return to Emilia.

In order to recognize this painting as one of the most typical examples of the late Spada style, it is necessary to make comparisons with certain other pictures which are all connected with his Parma period and datable towards the end of the second decade of the 17th century. These include the Beheading of John the Baptist and the Judith in the Parma Gallery (Inventory Nos 152 and 156), The Fortune Teller in the Galleria Estense in Modena (catalogue number 291), or the Lamentation formerly in Palazzo Chighi in Rome. For an extensive discussion of these paintings and the late period of Spada, see S. Frisoni in ‘Paragone’ No. 229, January 1975.

121 x 176 cm.
Oil on canvas
Where is It?
Private Collection Italy
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: New Testament
Italian - Bolognese
Price band
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