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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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Crucifixion at the Museo Civico in Ancona, Italy was commissioned by the Cornovi family for the San Domenico

The family itself was originally from Venice and so was well acquainted with the work of Titian. They hired Titian for one of his largest ever projects, a huge canvas which was nearly four metres tall, by two metres wide.

This symbolic artwork came towards the end of Titian's career and marks his movement towards the darker sides of human emotion within his art. There are few more powerful scenes than that of the Crucifixion, particularly for those who follow Christianity. Christ's suffering is displayed to remind us of his sacrifices for the benefit of others and also serves to encourage us to appreciate what we have.

St Dominic is portrayed by the artist with a huge amount of grief visible on his face. Titian exaggerates the emotions by lightening the colours in this area of the canvas, where most of the rest is much darker in comparison. The remaining touches of lighter colour are saved for Jesus himself, firstly to ensure that he retains the main focus of the viewer and secondly to help add clarity to his own detail.

The genre of this painting would specifically be of Counter-Reformation art, where emotion and narration are combined above all else. Titian seemed able to use this style fairly comfortably and was always seen as a skilled and highly versatile artist.

It is very appropriate that the original artwork remains in the Museo Civico in Ancona, having been commissioned from this city all those centuries ago (it was completed around 1558). Some of Titian's original work remains close to his home in Venice but most is dotted around all of Europe with plenty to be found at the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.

Titian was certainly not the only artist to take on this symbolic topic in his art, with it frequently appearing throughout the religion-dominated Renaissance art movement. Albrecht Durer created several crucifixion paintings and woodcuts, Caravaggio produced The Crucifixion of St Peter, Hieronymus Bosch gave us Crucifixion with a Donor and we also can't forget the work of Masaccio and Michelangelo.