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The Dead Christ with Angels
Francesco Zaganelli
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This is the lunette, or upper panel, of an altarpiece for the chapel of the Visitation in S. Andrea in Vineis, Faenza. The dead Christ sits on the lid of his stone tomb supported by two angels. The lid is placed obliquely so that it appears to project into our space, as do Christ’s legs. Zaganelli has painted Christ’s body as if in our space to emphasise that it is the origin of the Host (consecrated bread) that would be placed on the altar below the painting during the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The crucified Christ rising from the tomb in the lunette shows the destiny accepted by Christ at his baptism, which is depicted in the main panel of the altarpiece. Saint John the Baptist holds a reed cross which bears a scroll inscribed ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ (‘Behold the Lamb of God’). This refers to Christ, who will be sacrificed like a lamb for the salvation of humanity.

Key facts
Artist Francesco Zaganelli
Artist dates active 1499; died 1532
Full title The Dead Christ with Angels
Series The Laderchi Altarpiece from San Domenico, Faenza
Date made 1514
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 98.1 x 202.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1924
Inventory number NG3892.2
Location in Gallery Room 2
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The Laderchi Altarpiece from San Domenico, Faenza

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These two panel paintings formed the altarpiece for the Laderchi chapel in S. Andrea in Vineis, Faenza (the church was rebuilt in the eighteenth century and rededicated as S. Domenico). The main panel represents two episodes from the New Testament: the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Saint Elizabeth, who was pregnant with Saint John the Baptist; and the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan by Saint John the Baptist. The lunette, or upper panel, shows the dead Christ sitting on his open tomb, supported by two angels.

On 9 April 1504, Giacomo di Francesco Laderchi dictated a will in which he ordained that after his death his brothers should spend 100 lire in adorning the chapel of the Visitation, which he had paid to have built in 1489. Given the prominence of John the Baptist in this altarpiece, his brother Giovanni Battista was probably most closely involved in the commission.

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