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Polidoro da Caravaggio, 'The Way to Calvary', before 1534

Key facts
Full title The Way to Calvary
Artist Polidoro da Caravaggio
Artist dates about 1499 - 1543
Date made before 1534
Medium and support Oil on walnut
Dimensions 75.3 × 59.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a grant from the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and donations from the George Beaumont Group, 2003
Inventory number NG6594
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Way to Calvary
Polidoro da Caravaggio

This is one of three preparatory oil sketches for one of Polidoro’s most important works: the altarpiece for the oratory of SS. Annunziata in Messina, Sicily (now in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples). It shows Christ collapsing under the weight of the Cross as he carries it to Calvary where he will be crucified.

Raphael’s Way to Calvary of about 1516 (Prado, Madrid), was the starting point for the design, but Polidoro quickly developed his own dramatic and highly idiosyncratic response to the subject. The painting is crowded, claustrophobic and fraught with emotion.

Polidoro has skilfully manipulated the strength of colour to increase the intensity and drama of the story. The National Gallery’s oil sketch is the only version to include the figure of the Virgin Mary collapsing in grief, which is taken up so dramatically in the finished picture.

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