The Way to Calvary

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This is one of three preparatory oil sketches for one of Polidoro’s most important works: the altarpiece for the oratory of SS. Annunziata in Messina, Sicily (now in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples). It shows Christ collapsing under the weight of the Cross as he carries it to Calvary where he will be crucified.

Raphael’s Way to Calvary of about 1516 (Prado, Madrid), was the starting point for the design, but Polidoro quickly developed his own dramatic and highly idiosyncratic response to the subject. The painting is crowded, claustrophobic and fraught with emotion.

Polidoro has skilfully manipulated the strength of colour to increase the intensity and drama of the story. The National Gallery’s oil sketch is the only version to include the figure of the Virgin Mary collapsing in grief, which is taken up so dramatically in the finished picture.

The National Gallery, London



The Way to Calvary


before 1534


Oil on walnut


H 75.3 x W 59.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought with a grant from The Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and donations from the George Beaumont Group, 2003

Work type



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