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Altobello Melone, The Road to Emmaus

Key facts
Full title The Road to Emmaus
Artist Altobello Melone
Artist dates about 1490; died before 1543
Date made about 1516-17
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 145.5 × 144.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1864
Inventory number NG753
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Road to Emmaus
Altobello Melone

After the Crucifixion, two of Christ’s disciples are walking to Emmaus when the resurrected Christ himself draws near and walks with them. They do not recognise him: he’s disguised as a pilgrim with a staff and a hat bearing the pilgrim’s shell (Luke 24: 13–35). When he asks why they are so sorrowful, they say it is because Christ has died. He explains that Christ had to suffer to redeem the world.

We see Christ and the disciples again in the middle distance approaching Emmaus. The disciples remain unaware of Christ’s identity until he eats supper with them in Emmaus, when he breaks the bread in an echo of the Last Supper.

The painting is first recorded in the Carmelite church of S. Bartolomeo, Cremona. It was probably an altarpiece, and was originally more square in shape but has been cut down at the top. The subject is unusual for an altarpiece and it’s possible that the painting was donated to the church rather than made for it.

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