Ambrogio Bergognone, The Agony in the Garden
Two Panels from an Altarpiece
These two paintings of different episodes of the Passion (Christ’s torture and death) were once part of a triptych (a painting in three parts), along with The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, which is also in the National Gallery’s collection.
The three were not, however, made to go together. The two smaller panels of Christ may well have formed part of a multi-panelled altarpiece made by Ambrogio Bergognone in around 1501 (the date on one panel); the picture of the Virgin and Child is earlier, perhaps from the late 1480s, and is probably by Ambrogio’s brother, Bernardino.
Ambrogio Bergognone ran one of the leading painting workshops in Lombardy in the late fifteenth century, and his brother worked closely with him.
These two paintings – The Agony in the Garden and Christ carrying the Cross – were once part of a triptych, along with The Virgin and Child with Two Angels. They were not, however, made to go together and were painted by different artists (albeit brothers).
The two panels of the life of Christ may well originally have been part of a polyptych painted by Ambrogio Bergognone in around 1501 (the date on one of the panels). The Virgin and Child does not seem to be by the same hand, however; it was probably painted in the late 1480s by Ambrogio’s brother, Bernardino Bergognone.
Ambrogio ran one of the leading painting workshops in Milan in the late fifteenth century, and his brother worked closely with him.
Contemporary with the Master of the Pala Sforzesca and Andrea Solario, the Bergognone brothers remained unaffected by the radical compositional and atmospheric innovations of Leonardo da Vinci, who was also working in Milan from about 1482. Their calm, still scenes with their clear light and bright colours are closer to the work of Vincenzo Foppa.
All three panels were in a private collection in Milan – the Melzi Collection – in the early nineteenth century. We don't know where they were before that, or when they were combined into a single altarpiece.