LOMBARDY 1495-1550 BRUGES
THE CRUCIFIXION, WITH SCENES FROM THE PASSION BEYOND
oil on panel, arched top
56.7 by 40.5 cm.; 22 1/4 by 16 in.
In this painting, the figure of Christ is ultimately borrowed from Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion now in Vienna in which He appears with head slumped onto His right shoulder, knees bent, His right foot placed over His left. There is a distinct David-ian influence in the protagonists at the foot of the cross, the St. John supporting the fainting Mary recalling the same figures to the left of David’s own Crucifixion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The detailed background landscape is loosely based on Memling’s Passion in Turin. It is however painted in a distinct manner, quite different from the smoothly rendered principal figures that are so typical of Benson and the Bruges school, and recalls certain painters active in Antwerp during the same period. The group of figures to the right, fighting over St Joseph’s mantle, are also distinct from the protagonists and may be by the same hand as the landscape.
There is very little known of him from records, and he tended not to sign his work. He is believed to be responsible for mainly religious art, but also painted portraits on commission. He sometime painted from classical sources, often setting the figures in modern-dress, or a contemporary domestic setting. In his lifetime he was successful; he had a large workshop, his work was sold internationally and he was especially popular in Spain.
Benson became popular as a source for pastiche with 19th-century painters, who are sometimes known as the "followers of Benson". In particular his many variations of the Magdalen and Sibilla Persica were further copied and became popular with contemporary buyers. Many have retained their relative value and held in the National Gallery, London and command high prices at Sotheby's.