The two pictures were painted between 1540 and 1542 for the chapel of the confraternity of Santa Corona in the Milanese church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which housed a precious relic, a thorn from Christ's crown. It formed part of a cycle of frescoes with Scenes of the Passion painted by Gaudenzio Ferrari. The highly dramatic composition, characterized by the extreme dynamism of the bodies that converge on the figure of Christ, includes some references to Greco-Roman antiquity: in the bust of Tiberius, for example, who was emperor when Jesus was crucified and whose name is inscribed on the architrave, but also in the representation of Christ, where the face and the position of the legs are citations of the Laocoon, the ancient statue in the Vatican Museums whose discovery (1506) had stirred a great deal of interest. Other elements of the painting, however, show the influence of the most recent artistic developments: the rustication of the building in the background, which recalls the Palazzo Te in Mantua, and the twisting of the bodies of the two torturers, which is reminiscent of the frescoes executed by Giulio Romano in that same palace.
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