The work represents Christ at the Column a moment before the flagellation.
Looking closely the painting, the redeemer is not leaning on a column, as usually represented in the Christian iconography, but on a richly decorated pillar, whose architectural function in not fully understood.
The surrounding space is not clearly identifiable. Certainly, it is an interior with ancient cracked walls with a window and metal vessel placed on the ledge.
Outside there is typical Lombard landscape, unidentified however, with hills, buildings and rocks blending into the blue sky and water.
The sculptural figure is depicted close to the observer and illuminated by light coming from the left. The use of strong light and dark tones on his body creates a great volume, which makes it look “real” thanks also to elegant and powerful pictorial preparation.
The final definition of shapes has been obtained through lenticular vision of body details, such as the lower eyelashes of the right eye, the curls and the tears on his face. The artwork is supposed to have a touching effect on viewer, who is inevitably invited to dialogue with the scene.
Bramante studied in Urbino, which was the center of mathematical studies on perspective at the time. Comparison with Leonardo’s work in Milan during the years of studies of the expressive potential of the body, and the knowledge of Flemish art have definitely left traces on this artwork: the composition recalls Madonna di Senigallia by Piero della Francesca, and the use of beaming light Leonardo’s studies for the first version of the Virgin of the Rocks, or the details with Flemish influences, such as the particular shape of the window, recalling Madonna with Child by Dirk Bouts in the National Gallery of London.
The painting was deposited at the Pinacoteca di Brera in 1915 and it comes from the Chiaravalle Abbey in Milan, where it was placed on the altar of the second chapel of the right arm of the transept. The first source to mention the work (Lomazzo, 1590) indicates that it was not the original location of the painting.
Regarding the attribution, for years the criticism has been divided between Bramante and his student Bramantino because of his controversial pictorial catalog (this is the only known painting attributed to him). However, nowadays it has been included in Bramante’s catalog of works.
The artwork was probably made in the early 1490s’.
Donato di Pascuccio di Antonio known as Bramante was one the most important architects, painters and writers of treatises of the Italian Renaissance.
He completed his studies in the very sophisticated court of Montefeltro in Urbino and he became part of the circle of Piero della Francesca, as a perspective painter and architect. Thanks to his trip to Mantua, he certainly knew Mantegna’s Camera Picta, which had a great influence on him and he used similar perspective views and illusionistic effects throughout his whole career.
His first works were documented in Lombardy; in Bergamo he painted frescoes with the figures of Philosophers and architectural perspectives on the façade of Palazzo del Podestà, and in Milan, where he directed the reconstruction work of Santa Maria at San Satiro, which started in 1478.
Bramante spent the last decades of the 15th century at the Sforza court, where he worked as an engineer, architect, a set designer for various court celebrations, exchanging continuously ideas with Leonardo da Vinci, who was also in Milan at the same time. There he designed the rectory and the cloisters of Sant’Ambrogio, he intervened the discussion regarding the tiburio of the Milan Cathedral, he worked on the Pavia Cathedral and for the city of Vigevano, where made a magnificent urbanistic reorganization of the central square.
During these years the only panel painting attributed to him was the Christ on the Column of Pinacoteca di Brera (1490) which came from the Chiaravalle Abbey for a deposit in 1915. His last great work of his period in Milan was the reorganization of the tribune of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where he adopted the same solution he later used for the Fabric of St. Peter.
After the fall of Ludovico il Moro in 1499, Donato moved to Rome. The studies of classical architecture mixed with the architectural experiences during his Lombard period were the foundations for his Roman working sites.
In 1500 he began working on the cloister of Santa Maria della Pace and two years later, in 1502, the temple of San Pietro in Montorio, which was a perfect example of Bramante’s architectural experiments and the mixture of styles deriving from his studies and education, starting from the court of Montefeltro up to the classicism of the city of Rome.
After the papal election of Julius II in October 1503, the master was entrusted with the superintendence for all papal constructions (Restauratio Urbis by Julius II). He designed the Belvedere courtyard that connects the Vatican palaces with the villa of Innocent VIII and he began to work on the new St. Peter with a central plan. Both construction sites remain uncompleted (Julius II dies in 1513 and Bramante interrupts the work) and they underwent numerous changes over the years, whilst never losing the handprint and the brilliant designs of the multi-talented artist.
Preceded only by Leon Battista Alberti, Bramante was recalled as a great writer of treatises and admired for his inventions, which deeply changed the architecture of his time. His followers were among the greatest artists of all time: Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi, Jacopo Sansovino and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
Donato Bramante died in Rome in poor health on 11 April 1514.
Pinacoteca di Brera is a complex that consists of the departments of Accademia delle Belle Arti, Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Sopraintendeza per il Patrimonio Storico ed Artistico, Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere, Botanical garden and Astronomical Observatory.
The origins of this collection, where the chronological period of the artworks ranges from 13th to 20th century, with great examples of national and international figurative artistic culture, allow us to understand the motives of this heterogeneity and variety.
Pinacoteca di Brera is situated in the namesake building on the area which, in the past, was occupied by the Order of the Humiliati who came to Milan in 1209, designed by Milanese architect Carlo Maria Richini and later renovated by Giuseppe Piermarini.
In 1773 after the suppression of the Jesuit order, Pinacoteca di Brera became a state property. The first collection was introduced by Maria Theresa Of Austria, who wanted to create a collection of exemplary works intended for the students’ training.
When Milan became the capital of Italian kingdom by Napoleon’s will, the gallery became a real museum with exhibitions of great paintings from all the conquered territories, in addition to the already existing collection. In total there were 269 artworks, and the museum was opened to the public in 1809 with a unique collection of artworks from all the Italian museums, among them the Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael, the Crucifixion by Bramantino and the Disputation of St. Stephen by Carpaccio.
In the 19th century the collection was enriched with many significant works taken from Lombard churches and conventions, due to the abolition of many religious orders. Other works of identical origin, which were removed from the departments of the Italian kingdom, were added to the collection, thanks to the initiative of Giuseppe Bossi and Andrea Appiani. This explains the presence of so many important sacred paintings, which gave the museum its particular appearance, as well as the paintings by Bellotto and the portraits by Lorenzo Lotto.
Corrado Ricci, writer and art historian of undisputed fame, reorganized the exhibition to a strict chronological order by the schools and the polyptych of Valle Romita by Gentile da Fabriano and Men at Arms by Bramante were added to the collection. After the historic reorganization of Ettore Modgliani and architect Piero Portaluppi, following the bombings of 1943, director Feranda Wittgens gives the Pinacoteca a modern and almost aristocratic structure, taking advantage of Franco Albini’s work as well.
The collection was enriched with paintings and sculptures from the 20th century, thanks to the donation of Emilio and Maria Jesi (1976) and Vitali (1984) and with the acquisitions managed by the historic Associazione Amici di Brera which has always kept the museum in dynamic and continuous evolution. Among these were the Self-portrait by Umberto Boccioni, Mother and Son by Carlo Carrà, the Still Life by Giorgio Morandi, the Red Wagon by Fattori and the Afternoon by Silvestro Lega. The director at the time, Franco Russoli, started the expansion process in the halls of the Citterio palace and denounced the problems of that era with the exhibition “Processo per il Museo” in 1974, held in those unused halls. The Pinacoteca was reopened and expanded with Carlo Bertelli.
More recent renewal process began in 1989 with the renovation of technological installations and reorganization of the spaces. The work was organized by Vittorio Gregotti, who created the Napoleonic rooms and the small rooms next to the original gallery.
Among the most important and internationally famous works are Piero della Francesca’s Monterfeltro altarpiece, Andrea Mantegna’s Dead Christ, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini’s Preaching, Barocci’s Martyrdom of St. Vital, the scenes by Antonio Campi, the Christ at the Column by Bramante, the Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio and the Kiss by Hayez.
On 17 December 2011 a new staircase was introduced, designed by Adolfo Natalini. It connected the historical floor of the gallery with the new halls on the first floor. The most recent (2017) renovation was organized in the heart of the Brera, the Napoleonic rooms.