All my life I’d wanted to see the Prado. I knew there was Bosch (saw Garden of Earthly Delights; very pink on one side of it but still impressive), El Greco and many Goya. I knew that this would be my first time to see many of these famous classical works outside of an artbook. And though I was moved by the sheer volume of the collection, the very same magnitude numbed me. If just a couple of these rooms had been in a local collection I think I would have been awed and amazed and would have returned to see the paintings again. Here there were perhaps 50 rooms, each with 20 or more paintings, and many of those known paintings. But in the midst of all these classics, the same thing happened to me that had happened years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago.
A painting relatively unknown shook me to my core. In Chicago, it had been a painting easy to miss, high up near the ceiling, and if anything was most reminiscent of those saloon paintings, the nude with her back to you, looking over her shoulder, and for some reason I kept coming back to it. Another time it was a sensuous Rodin-like sculpture of a nude woman at the Edmonton Art Gallery. And here it was this, this Dead Christ Supported by an Angel by Antonello.
It is possibly the saddest painting I have ever seen. I speak as an unbeliever though I was raised Christian. And it moved me not as an insider but as something archetypal and yet fully personal. There is no stylisation here, it is pure and utter grief.