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Ugolino di Nerio, The Deposition

Key facts
Full title The Deposition
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Series The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 40.7 × 58.6 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1918
Inventory number NG3375
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Deposition
Ugolino di Nerio

This panel comes from the altarpiece Ugolino made for the church of Santa Croce in Florence – it was in the predella (’step', the lowest part of an altarpiece). Three other panels from this predella are in the National Gallery’s collection.

The dead Christ is being removed from the Cross. One man removes the nails from Christ’s feet; blood from his wounds has pooled on the ground below. He may be Nicodemus, who is mentioned in John’s Gospel as having come to the Cross with spices to anoint Christ’s body.

The man on the ladder is probably Joseph of Arimathea, who removed Christ from the Cross, according to Luke’s Gospel. Christ’s limp body is caught by his mother, the Virgin Mary, who embraces him, placing her face against his. Mary Magdalene caresses Christ’s hand, pressing it against her cheek. Saint John the Evangelist is equally mournful, clutching the body closely.

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The Santa Croce Altarpiece


These panels were once part of a large altarpiece which adorned the high altar of the church of Santa Croce in Florence. It focused on the Passion of Christ (his torture and crucifixion) and the Resurrection – an appropriate theme, as the church was dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Drawings made in the late eighteenth century show how it was arranged originally. There were four tiers of images: the main tier had a central image of the Virgin and Child flanked by images of the saints within arches, which were decorated with angels (there are two sets of these in the National Gallery’s collection).

Above was a row of saints framed in pairs; we hold two pairs. The uppermost tier consisted of six pinnacle panels, three on either side of a central image which probably showed the Crucifixion, itself topped by an image of Christ making a blessing gesture. The predella (the lowest layer) consisted of seven scenes showing Christ’s suffering and death; we have four of these.