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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The generally held view is that the Venetian artist Titian painted Christ Carrying the Cross in the years 1508 or 1509. There are some historians that attribute the painting to another artist called Giorgione, but this is unproven.

Both Titian and Giorgione were in an artists guild that was connected to the same school of painting and both were connected to the church. In fact, it is known that they both collaborated on a number of paintings and had a similar style, so the argument still exists to this day, in some quarters, about who actually painted Christ Carrying the Cross. One thing that is certain, this painting had an enormous effect on the Italian Renaissance.

Christ Carrying the Cross by Titian is an oil painting on canvas. When he painted it, Titian created a dark and moody feel to the painting by using dark and sombre colours such as the background painted in black. The only bright colours are in the face of Christ who is being led with a noose around his neck as he carries the cross and the angry face of his executioner placing the noose around the neck of Christ.

A striking element of this painting is the fact that it is painted in close-up style, giving the subjects a life-size feel. This is probably one of the reasons that the painting was thought to have divine and miraculous properties. It has been the subject of devotion and veneration since the 16th century when those that prayed in front of it maintained it had the powers to cure the sick and afflicted.

At the time, the faithful left so many gifts in front of the painting, the patrons of San Roco decided to sell them on, thus they were able to fund restorations to the building for a period of time. This guaranteed the importance of the painting to the faithful, who believed in its healing properties and the patrons of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, who saw it as a fundraiser.

It is unsure as to who the patron of the painting was but it is thought that it was Iacomo di Zuan, who was the Guardian Grande of one of the private chapels in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. In March 1508, di Zuan promised to adorn the building with not only a tomb for himself and his family but with paintings and expensive furnishings as well. Some scholars think that Christ Carrying the Cross may have been ordered by him, as one of those paintings. The painting is currently hanging with other works of art at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice.