Giovanni Bellini - Christ Carrying the Cross, about 1505-1510

Circle of Giovanni Bellini (Venice, about 1431-1436 - 1516, Venice)

Christ Carrying the Cross, about 1505-1510

Oil and tempera on poplar panel, 49.5 x 38.5 cm (19 1/2 x 15 3/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Zileri dal Verme Collection, Palazzo Loschi, Venice.
Count Camillo Zileri dal Verme (d.1894) by descent to Count Roberto Zileri dal Verme and family.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the Zileri brothers, Venice, December 1898 for £6000 through Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), American art historian. (as Giorgione)


Salomon Reinach. Saloman Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen âge et de la renaissance (1280-1580) (Paris, 1905), p. 395. (as Giorgione)Philip Hendy. "The Christ Carrying the Cross at Fenway Court." Burlington Magazine 56 (April 1930), pp.196-203. (as Giorgione or Palma Vecchio)Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 160-65. (as Giorgione or Palma Vecchio)Morris Carter. "Report of the Director of the Museum." Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Annual Report (1931), p. 25. (as attributed to Giorgione by Lionello Venturi and others)Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 225-26. (as Giorgione) Stuart Preston. "Christ Bearing the Crosst" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 28. (as Giorgione)Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 59. (as Giorgione; "by Philip Hendy it is given to Palma Vecchio")William N. Mason. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 4 (23 Sept. 1962), pp. 1-2. (as Giorgione)George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 178-79. (as Giorgione)Pietro Zampetti. The Complete Paintings of Giorgione (London, 1970), p. 98, no 47. (as Giovanni Bellini) Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 17-22. (after Giovanni Bellini)David Alan Brown. "Berenson and Mrs. Gardner: The Connoisseur, the Collector and the Photograph." Fenway Court. (1978), p. 24, fig. 1.Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 54-55. (as studio of Giovanni Bellini)Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 65-74, 77, 79-86, 88-90, 98, 105-6, 108-114, 116, 124, 128-29, 135-36, 157, 328, 653-54. (as Giorgione)Rona Goffen. Giovanni Bellini (New Haven, 1989), pp. 85-88, fig. 62. (as Giovanni Bellini with assistance)Hilliard Goldfarb. Imaging the Self in Renaissance Italy. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum III. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992), pp. 39-42.Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco. Giorgione. (New York, 1999), pp. 130-31, 193, no. 14. (as Giorgione)Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000). (as studio or circle of Giovanni Bellini)Paul Joannides. Titian to 1518: The Assumption of the Genius (New Haven, 2001), pp. 240-41, fig. 218. (as follower of Giovanni Bellini?)Alan Chong et al. Raphael, Cellini & A Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Florence: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 2003), p. 122. (as attributed to Giovanni Bellini)Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 98-99. (as circle of Giovanni Bellini, perhaps Vincenzo Catena)Alan Chong. "Mrs. Gardner's museum of myth." Res 52 (Autumn 2007), p. 214. (as probably Vincenzo Catena)Cynthia Saltzman. Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), p. 80.Mauro Lucco et al. Giovanni Bellini. Exh. cat. (Rome: Scuderie del Quirinale, 2008), pp. 304-05, no. 55. (as Giovanni Bellini (?), about 1438)Alan Chong. "Isabella Gardner, Bernard Berenson, and Otto Gutekunst" in Jeremy Howard (ed.). Colnaghi: The History (London, 2010), in Jeremy Howard (ed.). Colnaghi: The History (London, 2010), p. 28, figs. 4-5. (as circle of Giovanni Bellini, perhaps Catena)Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2009), pp. 98-101, cat. 3. (as circle of Giovanni Bellini)David Alan Brown. "Isabella's Christ." I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 18, no. 2 (Fall 2015), pp. 469-88, fig. 1 (as Vincenzo Catena)Christopher J. Nygren. Titian's Icons: Tradition, Charisma, and Devotion in Renaissance Italy. (Philadelphia, 2020), pp. 33, fig. 8. 

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In the late fifteenth century, new types of private devotional pictures emerged in Italy. This painting is innovative in its depiction of strong emotion to aid prayer and meditation. The subject has been excerpted from narrative representations of Christ carrying the cross to Mount Calvary. However, lacking distracting details or any indication of setting, this image focuses instead on the tear-streaked face of Christ, who stares out at us melancholically, as well as the knotty wood cross over which he casts a shadow. It is an intimate and intensely personal depiction of a suffering more emotional than physical. This type of dramatic close-up was perfected by Giovanni Bellini, who was influenced by devotional images derived from the work of Leonardo da Vinci. This work is in turn based on a composition by Bellini (recorded in a painting in the Toledo Art Museum), and was made by a close follower of the artist, perhaps Vincenzo Catena (ca. 1470–1531).

When Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased the painting in 1896, it was attributed to Giorgione, who was also pupil of Bellini and documented as a colleague of Catena. Even at that time, Gardner was unsure about its authorship, although the painting’s strong quality and stirring piety led her to buy it. Bernard Berenson was frankly surprised that Gardner wanted such a strongly religious work. According to Morris Carter, the first director of the museum, the painting was Mrs. Gardner’s favorite, and she often placed a vase of violets in front of it, a tradition maintained by the museum.

Source: Alan Chong, "Christ Carrying the Cross," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 99.