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Prospero Fontana


1512 - 1597


In this spectacular, if formulaic, altarpiece the decorativeness and artificiality of mannerism can be observed giving ground to the more robust dynamics of the proto-baroque style that emerged in Fontana's native Bologna during this period. The artist occupied an important place in Bolognese cultural affairs, while his daughter and pupil, Lavinia, established a significant reputation as a portraitist. Indeed, her fame eclipsed his for a time. The figures in this work derive from the standard Renaissance repertoire, their compression and colouristic variety are Fontana's own. He was especially adept at conveying a mood of heightened emotion within a limited pictorial space. Even the air-borne angels bearing the instruments of the Passion are cramped by the ominous cross. Fontana's intention, fully realised, is to force the viewer into direct contemplation of the physical suffering of Christ and its grievous effect on the sacred assembly around him.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.


Other Title




Media category


Materials used

oil on panel


193.0 x 116.5 cm panel; 212.7 x 135.3 x 14.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.c., oil "Prosper Fontane/ MDLXIII.".


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1994

Accession number


Artist information

Prospero Fontana

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history


The Church of S. Giacomo, Italy, Almost certainly is the 'Deposition' referred to by two early sources as for the altar of the Church of Corpus Domini, Bologna.

Conte Luigi Salina, circa 1841, Bologna/Italy, by 1841

Whitfield Fine Art, London, pre 26 May 1994, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Whitfield Fine Art 1994. Letters sent to Whitfield Fine Art, 29 June and 12 November 2001 and 12 March 2003 asking for information on when and from whom they acquired the painting. No response.

Referenced in 9 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994, (colour illus.). no pagination or catalogue numbers

Richard Beresford', Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Transformation: Society's gifts of enriching art from Europe help collection turnaround', pg.45-7, Sydney, May 2003, 47 (colour illus.).

Vera Fortunati, Vita artistica nel monastero femminile Exempla, 'Ruolo e funzione delle immagini nei monasteri femminili', pg.11-41, Bologna, 2002, 40 (colour illus.), 41. no. 13

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 108, 115 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 24 (colour illus.).

Michael Mohi (Editor), The many faces of Christ, Sydney, 2000, 25 (colour illus.).

Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, "Prospero Fontana 'Deposition'", Heidelberg, Aug 1994, cover (colour illus.), 12, 13 (colour illus.). cover illustration is a detail

Judith White, art lovers: The Story of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1953-2013, 'Chapter 5: Be part of the art 1988-2000', pp. 111-138, Sydney, 2013, 115, 121, 242, 243 (colour illus.).

Judith Wright, Look, 'Building the Collection', pg. 6-7, Melbourne, Apr 1999, 6 (colour illus.).