The Deposition Chapel
The Chapel houses the large altarpiece of the Deposition, relocated here after the demolition of the church of Santa Maria della Scala in 1776, where it was displayed in the Chapel of the Veronica – the Veronica being the woman standing in the background on the right, holding the cloth that would have been used to wipe Jesus’ sweat and blood on the way to the Crucifixion.
The canvas is signed (S)imonPeterzanus/ Titiani al(umnus) – Simon Peterzano, Titian’s alumnus - and dates from the period immediately before the years 1584-1588, when the artist had as apprentice in his workshop the young Caravaggio.
In the foreground lies Christ’s livid and lifeless body – whose torso Nicodemus is supporting, and whose left hand a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene holds close to her face.Together all the figures - the Virgin Mary and the pious women, with Saint John and Joseph of Arimathea behind them - form an exedra as if on stage, in dramatic but controlled stances.
The altarpiece shows a venetian connection, in particular with the work of Francesco Salviati, employing the same composition techniques as in the Deposition that he had painted for the church of Corpus Domini in Venice.
The stark, almost brutal light makes each figure stand out, and highlights the whiteness of the shroud. Peterzano still employs a traditional representation of a naturalistic background and a mannerist use of colour typical of the 16th century, but at the same time promotes Milan’s new cultural and artistic trends of the Counter-Reformation period, with new styles and new composition models.
Caravaggio must have drawn inspiration from the dramatic use of light and the rigorous visual composition of this work for his own Deposition, now at the Pinacoteca Vaticana.