Skip to main content

The Deposition of Christ

Guglielmo della Porta

Artwork Details

The Deposition of Christ
circa 1564
Guglielmo della Porta
bronze relief
20 ¾ in x 14 ⅝ in x 1 ½ in (52.71 cm x 37.15 cm x 3.81 cm);20 ¾ in x 14 ⅝ in x 1 ½ in (52.71 cm x 37.15 cm x 3.81 cm)
Museum Purchase


March 28, 2009
A contemporary of Michelangelo (1475–1564), Guglielmo della Porta benefited from lucrative papal commissions secured with the influence of his more successful peer. Della Porta probably designed this panel for a door commissioned by Pope Pius IV in 1564 for the church of St. Peter in Rome. The project, however, never achieved fruition. Undaunted, della Porta almost certainly offered the same design in the mid-1570s as part of a proposed tomb for Pope Gregory XIII, which, again, was never realized. The rim around this relief indicates its intention for one of these unfinished projects.
The panel depicts the lifeless body of Jesus being lowered from the cross, which looms above the crowd of mourners. The descent of Christ’s body to the ground is echoed by the figure of the Virgin Mary, who falls back, grief-stricken, into the arms of two women and John the Evangelist. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s devoted followers, lunges forward with her hair streaming behind her to place a kiss on his wrist. The dynamic swirls of drapery around the figures amplify the rhythm of these movements and also suggest the liquid quality of molten bronze.

Subject Matter:

This bronze panel depicts the removal of Christ from the cross, which looms empty in the background. His muscular body, held by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, lies in calm repose at the center of a storm of grief. Mary Magdalene, her hair unbound, leans sharply forward to kiss Christ's left wrist, while the Virgin Mary falls back in a faint into the arms of three women and St. John the Evangelist. Great sweeps of drapery augment the impassioned responses of the figures. Four onlookers stand to the sides and the two thieves, their bodies naked and twisted, still hang on their crosses.

Physical Description:

A small crowd of figures gathers around the body of a dead man and a fainting woman in the center of this bronze panel. The dead man's body and the two men holding his burial shroud appear in the foreground, while the fainting woman and the three women and the man who support her are positioned immediately above and behind them. Another woman with loose, flowing hair leans forward to kiss the left hand of the dead man, uniting the two parts of this central group. Four other male figures, rendered in slightly smaller scale and lower relief, look on from the sides. Three crosses provide the backdrop to the drama. The central cross is empty, yet two twisting nude males are suspended from the crosses on either side.

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.