Marco Zoppo was born in Cento, close to Bologna. During his career, Zoppo’s work took him to Padua, Bologna, and Venice. His paintings reveal intimate knowledge of the work of Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini. In particular Bellini’s devotional paintings from the 1460s exerted a strong influence on Zoppo, who in turn became known for his paintings depicting the dead Christ.
This painting was made for private devotion in a home, or perhaps in a monastic cell. By placing the figure of Christ immediately in front of the picture plane against a dark background, Zoppo invites the viewer to meditate solely on the death of Christ. The complete lack of narrative denies a specific time and place, so nothing impedes the viewer’s contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice. Using tiny, linear paint strokes Zoppo carefully articulates the hair and flesh, enhancing the sculptural quality of the figure. The painting has been trimmed along the bottom, although it is not known when this occurred or how much has been removed.