The small panel with the “Dead Christ” and the so-called “Saint Clare” comes from the convent in Urbino dedicated to the saint of the same name, a place dear to the Montefeltro and Della Rovere families. It became part of the collections of the Marche Institute of Fine Arts probably before 1896 when it was reported in the museum collections.

It was attributed to Giovanni Santi by Cavalcaselle in 1861, and this thesis has been accepted by most critics.

The painting depicts the figure of Christ standing as the “Man of Sorrows” (Vir dolorum), a subject repeatedly painted by Giovanni Santi. Christ’s head is slightly inclined to the right, and his face appears as if in serene sleep. The painter’s eye investigates every detail with “the usual northern subtlety,” with special attention given to the light coming from the left, permeating all surfaces and spreading across individual strands of the beard and long hair.

Embracing and supporting the dead Christ is a female figure who gently rests her face against Jesus’s with an expression of sorrowful grief. The dark cloak, with an additional light veil and the fringed neckpiece, has been interpreted as a monastic garment. The figure has been suggested to represent both the Virgin Mary and Saint Clare, given the painting’s origin from the Urbino convent dedicated to her.

The panel could allude to the entry into the convent of Elisabetta, the daughter of Federico da Montefeltro and the widow of Roberto Malatesta since 1482. However, it cannot be ruled out that the woman is identified as Mary due to the physical proximity of the two characters, which is more fitting for a mother-child relationship than for Christ with a saint.

Furthermore, a well-established iconographic tradition of this type, found in some Venetian and Flemish prototypes that Giovanni Santi may have looked to, could suggest such a solution. For instance, the “Dead Christ Supported by Mary and John” by Giovanni Bellini (1465-70, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera) or the well-characterized models by Hans Memling and other Northern artists, which might be related to the resigned sweetness of the sorrowful image of Christ.

Regarding the dating, critics place the work in the second half of the 1480s due to a “Peruginesque influence” derived from models of the artist from the late 1480s, which is later than Giovanni Santi’s first examples of “Christ as the Man of Sorrows” painted from the late 1470s to the early 1480s.

Finally, Ranieri Varese emphasizes that the large hands of the figures are a later addition.

Author: Giovanni Santi
Realization date: 1485-1490 ca.
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
Place of originFrom the convent of Santa Chiara in Urbino
INV COD:D63
Dimensions: 54 x 41 cm
Technique: Panel

Author: Giovanni Santi
Realization date: 1485-1490 ca.
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
Place of originFrom the convent of Santa Chiara in Urbino
INV COD:D63
Dimensions: 54 x 41 cm
Technique: Panel


The small panel with the “Dead Christ” and the so-called “Saint Clare” comes from the convent in Urbino dedicated to the saint of the same name, a place dear to the Montefeltro and Della Rovere families. It became part of the collections of the Marche Institute of Fine Arts probably before 1896 when it was reported in the museum collections.

It was attributed to Giovanni Santi by Cavalcaselle in 1861, and this thesis has been accepted by most critics.

The painting depicts the figure of Christ standing as the “Man of Sorrows” (Vir dolorum), a subject repeatedly painted by Giovanni Santi. Christ’s head is slightly inclined to the right, and his face appears as if in serene sleep. The painter’s eye investigates every detail with “the usual northern subtlety,” with special attention given to the light coming from the left, permeating all surfaces and spreading across individual strands of the beard and long hair.

Embracing and supporting the dead Christ is a female figure who gently rests her face against Jesus’s with an expression of sorrowful grief. The dark cloak, with an additional light veil and the fringed neckpiece, has been interpreted as a monastic garment. The figure has been suggested to represent both the Virgin Mary and Saint Clare, given the painting’s origin from the Urbino convent dedicated to her.

The panel could allude to the entry into the convent of Elisabetta, the daughter of Federico da Montefeltro and the widow of Roberto Malatesta since 1482. However, it cannot be ruled out that the woman is identified as Mary due to the physical proximity of the two characters, which is more fitting for a mother-child relationship than for Christ with a saint.

Furthermore, a well-established iconographic tradition of this type, found in some Venetian and Flemish prototypes that Giovanni Santi may have looked to, could suggest such a solution. For instance, the “Dead Christ Supported by Mary and John” by Giovanni Bellini (1465-70, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera) or the well-characterized models by Hans Memling and other Northern artists, which might be related to the resigned sweetness of the sorrowful image of Christ.

Regarding the dating, critics place the work in the second half of the 1480s due to a “Peruginesque influence” derived from models of the artist from the late 1480s, which is later than Giovanni Santi’s first examples of “Christ as the Man of Sorrows” painted from the late 1470s to the early 1480s.

Finally, Ranieri Varese emphasizes that the large hands of the figures are a later addition.