Artibus et Historiae no. 74 (XXXVII)

2016, ISSN 0391-9064

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GIORGIO TAGLIAFERRO - Procurators on the Threshold: Sitters and Beholders in Palma Giovane’s Crociferi Entombment (pp. 153–176)

The Entombment of Christ, painted by Palma Giovane for the Oratorio dei Crociferi in Venice (1590), contains the portraits of two Procurators of St Mark, whose unusual position at the back implicitly involves them directly in the sacred narrative. This article examines how the painting elaborates on typical strategies of Venetian institutional portraits to place the sitters on a threshold between fictive and real, and give them an intermediary function between the viewers and the scene. It argues that, by means of a well-thought design, the sitters spur the beholder, that is the destitute women of the adjoining hospice, to simultaneously worship Christ’s body and acknowledge the Procurators’ role as the administrators of the Oratory. The engagement with the spectator is thus exploited to symbolise the renewal of the endowment to the hospice through the ritual re-enactment of the Eucharistic mystery. While the past of the sacred narrative and the present of the spectator converge, the act of beholding formalises the relationship between those who are guarantors and those who are guarantees. Moreover, a replica of the painting, where a couple of anonymous donors have replaced the Procurators and pray before Christ, suggests that Palma’s painting was recognised as a model for social emulation, where the Procurators are acknowledged for their dignity.



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