Honoré Daumier

Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Honoré Daumier is one of the noble fathers of nineteenth-century French painting, then of modern art. His superb skills as an illustrator have given us scenes of people and religious scenes, dreamlike views in desolate landscapes, and scratchy, sarcastic human portraits of profound intellectual depth. This work can be traced back to him, both by the writing on the back that attributes to it to him, and for its unprecedented and revolutionary power. The actual crucifixion is drawn almost in the background, exalting the relationship between Christ, the pious women and the other sufferers, the two robbers. Before us stands a fallen and neighing horse, which represents nature abandoned to itself in pain. On the left, the shapes of the soldiers playing cards are outlined by the interweaving of extraordinary shadows. The work is attributable to the later part of the maestro’s life, when he had practically become blind, yet he still possessed the prodigious ability to portray fantastic elements and real allusions. On the other hand, one of the distinguishing features of his genius was how he creates bodies rife with physicality, almost forming them on canvas or paper. His characters, in fact, resemble figures carved with a malleable material with a metal core inside, so that the limbs bend to express meaningful gestures. This is the case in this work, which exalts the drama of the situation and draws new perspectives, expressing the absolute tragedy in silence.

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