‘The Crucifixion’, Christie's Old Masters

The present picture was painted by a fifteenth-century artist from northern Italy, whose style resembles that of the Lombard painter Bernardino Butinone (circa 1436-after 1507). Its composition derives from a print by Francesco Rosselli (1448-before 1513) that belongs to a series of fifteen engravings of the Life of the Virgin and Christ, executed by Rosselli in the mid-1480s (several impressions are now in the British Museum, including inv. 1845,0825.637). The composition of the Crucifixion scene from this series also closely relates to a pen-and-wash drawing in the Uffizi, variously attributed to the school of Alesso Baldovinetti (1425-1499) or to the Florentine painter Biagio di Antonio Utili (1446-1516). Scholars have debated whether the drawing is a copy after the engraving or a preparatory study for it by Francesco Rosselli himself. Also quite similar is a miniature painting of a Crucifixion on vellum, now in the Städelisches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, also attributed to Rosselli. Though the composition of the present picture is close to that of the engraving, the painter has made a number of inventive changes. He has removed the angels from the sky, enhanced the details of the figures' clothing and in some instances altered their spatial arrangement, adding his own vibrant coloristic sensibility to the scene.