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Annotated works

BENSON, Ambrosius

(Lombardy, Italy, before 1500-Bruges, Belgium, 1550)

Pietà at the Foot of the Cross

Oil on oak panel

68 x 88,2 cm

c. 1530

Renaissance and Mannierism (16th Century - Early 17th Century)

N.° inv. 69/34

Donated by Antonio Plasencia in 1935


BENSON, Ambrosius on Online collection

This Pietà presents the main characters in this passage from The Passion: St John, receiving the dead body of Christ, the Virgin Mary in the centre and Mary Magdalene kissing the wounds of The Saviour. The elegant figures standing in the foreground keep their composure in spite of the dramatic quality of the scene. Their categorical presence and the delicate sfumato of their volumes are the two main traits of Benson’s painting, derived from his Lombard origins, which he combines with the meticulous technique and the models characterising Flemish taste. The Burial of Christ in depicted on the right, behind this scene, literally inspired by Dürer’s print from the Small Passion series. The simultaneous presence of both episodes in the same work is a resource also linked to the tradition of primitive Flemish painters that in this context seems archaic. The balanced composition is enveloped in an atmosphere of stillness, rendered by means of a combination of warm and cold shades in a rich range of colours. At the feet of bluish mountains in the background rises the celestial Jerusalem, which has been transferred to a Northern European environment, as revealed by the architecture and the greenness of the countryside. The original format of this panel was vertical, showing its characters full length.

Of Italian origin, Ambrosius Benson settled in Bruges in 1518, where he became the disciple of Gerard David. Named Master of the St Luke Guild in the city in 1519, he developed a style similar to that of his master, to whose models and compositions he often turned in search of inspiration. Benson specialised in religious themes to great acclaim, and was also a distinguished portrait painter. His workshop was considerably productive and most of its output was destined for Spain.  [A.S.L.]

Selected bibliography:

Marqués de Lozoya. "En torno a Ambrosio Benson : el retablo de Carbonero el Mayor"en Archivo Español de Arte, Madrid, n.º 40, 1940, pp. 19-25.

Georges Marlier. Ambrosius Benson et la peinture a Bruges au temps de Charles Quint. Amberes : Musée Van Maerlannt Damne, 1957, pp. 97-99.

L'art Flamand dans les Collections Espagnoles. [Cat. exp.]. Bruges : Les Presses Saint Augustin, 1958, pp. 86-87, n.º 60.
Marqués de Lozoya. "Algo más sobre Ambrosio Benson"en Archivo Español de Arte, Madrid, n.º 129, 1960, pp. 1-17.
Max J. Friedländer. Early Netherlandish Painting. vol. VI. Hans Memling and Gerard David. New York : Frederick A. Praeger, 1971, pp. 105 y 202.

Elisa Bermejo. "Gérard David y Ambrosio Benson, autores de dos pinturas inéditas de la Virgen con el niño"en Archivo Español de Arte, Madrid, n.º 190-191,1975, pp. 251-263.

Ana Sánchez-Lassa de los Santos. "Conservación y restauración en el Museo" en Urtekaria 1983 : asterlanak, albistak = Anuario 1983 : estudios, crónicas. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 1984, pp. 11-30.

Xesqui Castañer. Pinturas y pintores flamencos, holandeses y alemanes en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao : Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1995, pp. 65-68.

Ana Sánchez-Lassa de los Santos; Maite Rodriguez. "La peinture et le laboratoire. Procédés. Méthodologie. Applications" en, Le dessin sous-jacent et la technologie dans la peinture. COLLOQUE XIII [Bruges, 15, 16, 17 septembre 1999]. Leuven; Paris; Sterling : Uitgeverij Peeters, 2001, pp. 45-51, il. 1.

Ana Sánchez- Lassa de los Santos. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 30, n.º 16, ad vocem.

Annotated works