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Luca Signorelli, Man on a Ladder

Key facts
Full title Man on a Ladder
Artist Luca Signorelli
Artist dates about 1440/50 - 1523
Date made 1504-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 88.3 × 52 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2016
Inventory number NG6659
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
Man on a Ladder
Luca Signorelli

This fragment of a larger painting shows an elderly man on a precarious descent down a ladder. His grip is obstructed by a pair of pincers, which he has used to extract the nails which secured Christ to the Cross. Signorelli was noted in his time for his skill at depicting the human body in a variety of complex poses, and here he has conveyed the contortion required for such a broad man to climb such a tall and narrow ladder.

The panel was part of an altarpiece showing the Lamentation of Christ at the Foot of the Cross made for the high altar of the church of Sant'Agostino in Matelica, a town in the Italian region of the Marche. Part of the haloed head of a saint, probably Saint John the Evangelist, is visible at the lower right. We know of other fragments which are now in collections across the world.

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