Pedro de Campaña (aka Pieter de Kempener)
(1503 - c. 1580)
Oil on oak panel
21 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (54.4 x 44.8 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase with funds from The Meadows Foundation, MM.2021.05
Hear a reading of the object label (2:55 minutes)
Pedro de Campaña, as Pieter de Kempener was known Spain, was among the most important painters of early Renaissance Seville and influenced generations of Spanish artists. His work both supplied and fueled demand for paintings that focused devotional practice at precisely the moment that Seville came into its own as the center of a global empire. The rendering of precise details, elongated bodies, and clever compositional staging all reflect skills developed in his native Belgium, but honed in Italy. However, the artist ultimately matured in response to the demands of Seville’s culture for pious patronage. Due to that Andalusian city’s status during the sixteenth century as one of the most culturally and commercially rich in Europe, this acquisition grants an important glimpse into a fruitful chapter of Spanish art history. Some of Campaña’s most important works are displayed today in the Seville Cathedral, a testament to his cultural impact on the city and the country as a whole. This panel is the first work by Campaña, indeed the first by any sixteenth-century artist active in Seville, to enter the Meadows collection, thus filling a major gap in the museum’s Renaissance holdings.
True to the biblical accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Campaña’s tempestuous depiction of Calvary likely served to guide and focus personal devotion on the final moments of Christ’s Passion and on the theater of the crucifixion scene. Emotional responses seen through the facial expressions and hand gestures of Mary and John offered a model for viewer response. Their halos, together with Christ’s, are depicted as a source of light in an otherwise dark image, and demonstrate the delicacy of the mordant gilding technique. Symbols of the Passion, including the cross and nails, as well as the eucharistic references in Campaña’s rendering of Christ’s flesh and wounds, ground the scene within the scripture without overpowering the protagonists. The two crucified thieves flanking Christ are of iconographic import, but also serve as framing devices; their long bodies affixed to twisted crosses add dynamism to the composition. The crowd that had antagonized Christ mere moments before now drifts off into the distance as a collection of expertly executed brushstrokes, perhaps as a reminder to the viewer of Christ’s strength and perseverance. Carefully placed symbols, such as the serpent and the tiny figure of Judas on the right of the composition, reward close looking, encouraging viewers’ unrushed mediation on the image and the broader narrative it summarizes visually.