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Relief - The dead Christ tended by angels
  • The dead Christ tended by angels
    Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466
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The dead Christ tended by angels

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520-1540 (carved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (style of)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved marble in low relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64a, The Robert H. Smith Gallery

Believed by many to be the work of Donatello and his one-time partner Michelozzo, this languid Christ relates more closely to later works and perhaps deliberately recalls Donatello’s style. The wounds of the Passion in Christ’s hands, feet and side were a focus for meditation on his suffering. Unusually, the side wound is missing here, although the wounds from the nails in Christ's hands are distinctively carved.

Physical description

In the centre is the body of Christ supported by two angels. His head is inclined on his right shoulder and his left arm is raised on the shoulder of the angel beside him. The figure is cut off at the thighs by the integrally-carved frame, and also at the proper right hand which rests on the left thigh. Christ's hands bear the distintive marks of the nails used to support his body on the cross. He has a cruciform halo, and wears a plaited crown of thorns. The angel on the right is shown in profile and moving forwards, his right hand on Christ's shoulder, his left on Christ's chest. The angel on the left supports Christ's head with his right hand, and presses his left hand in a gesture of grief against his face. Both wear loosely flowing robes. In very low relief in the background are three lamenting angels. The scene is recessed into an integrally-carved foliated border.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


ca. 1520-1540 (carved)


Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (style of)

Materials and Techniques

Carved marble in low relief


Height: 80.5 cm, Width: 114.3 cm, Depth: 6 cm, Weight: 100 kg approximately

Object history note

The relief is closely related in style to the work of Donatello, and is believed by some scholars, to be by the master's hand, together with a workshop assistant, possibly Michelozzo with whom Donatello was in partnership for several years. However, the absence of the side wound, made all the more telling by the distinctive wounds in the hands that refer to Christ being nailed to the cross, and the languid treatment of the torso suggest that the relief dates to a later period. There was a particular interest in the sculpture of the quattrocento around the 1530s and the relief was possibly created as an homage to the great master in around 1520-50.

Descriptive line

Relief, marble, The Dead Christ Tended by Angels, style of Donatello

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Avery, Charles Donatello Exhibition Catalogue, Firenze, 1991. p95, cat no 58
Pope-Hennessy, John Donatallo: Sculptor New York, 1993, pp. 140-2
Pope-Hennessy, John Donatello Berlin, 1986. pp. 144-7
Rosenauer, Artur Donatello Milan, 1993. p. 146
Dunkleman, Martha Levine, 'A New Look at Donatello's St. Peter's Tabernacle' in Gazette des Beaux Arts, CVXII, 1991, pp. 1-16
Pianazza, Murielle 'Giovan Pietro Campana Collezionista, Archeologo, Banchiere e il suo legame con Firenze' in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz XXXVII, 1993, 2/3. p452
del Bravo, Carlo Scultura senese del Quattrocento Florence, 1970, p. 85
Seymour Jr., Charles Sculpture in Italy 1400-1500 Pelican History of Art, Harmondsworth, 1966. pp234
Timofiewitsch, Wladimir, Giralamo Campagna-Studien zur venezianischen Plastik um das Jahr 1600, Munich, 1972, pp. 39, 40, 44
Caplow, Harriet Michelozzo 1977, p. p378-85
Brown, F.P. London Sculpture English Art Series, Volume III, p.16
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 28
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, p. 20
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964, vol. I, pp. 73-75
Raggio, Olga. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Art Bulletin. Vol. L, 1968, p. 100
Peta Motture 'Looking afresh: reviewing Italian Renaissance sculpture for the V&A's Medieval & Renaissance Galleries', plate 5, pp. 21-23 and 27
Motture, P., Jones, E. and Zikos, D., ed. by, Carvings, Casts and Collectors: The Art of Renaissance Sculpture, London, 2013

Labels and date

Probably made for the front of an altar, the relief was designed by Donatello. It was executed in Donatello's workshop, in part by Donatello, whose intervention is most clearly apparent in the head and left side of Christ. The studio assistant responsible for the lateral and background figures also worked on the external pulpit of Prato Cathedral (completed 1438). The present relief seems to date from the same time. []
Probably made for the front of an altar, the relief was designed by Donatello and executed in his workshop. The head and left side of Christ appear to have been worked up by Donatello, with a studio assistant responsible for the lateral and background figures. The relief relates stylistically to the external pulpit of Prato Cathedral (completed 1438). The composition appears to have been known by Giovanni Bellini, who uses a similar arrangement of figures in his Pieta of 1474 in the Pinacoteca Comunale, Rimini. [March 1992]




Carving; Low relief

Subjects depicted

Halo; Angels; Wings


Sculpture; Religion; Christianity; Death


Sculpture Collection

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