c. 1538; Oil on canvas, 235 x 250 cm; Chiesa, Cittadella
In his lifetime, Jacopo Bassano was one of the most famous and influential masters of the Late Renaissance in Italy, and his paintings were widely collected throughout Europe for their luminous colors and sensitively observed incidents from everyday life. Trained by his father, a minor painter, in the north Italian hill town of Bassano, he is recorded in neighboring Venice by 1535, where he was studying with Bonifazio de' Pitati. Bassano's youthful works also reflect the influence of Titian, Pordenone, and other northern Italian masters, along with artists like Raphael and Albrecht Dürer, whose compositions he knew through prints. By the late 1530s, however, his style developed beyond these sources to assert an inventiveness rivaling that of his contemporaries Tintoretto and Veronese. Bassano's sons (Francesco, Leandro, and Gerolamo) helped to extend his influence well into the seventeenth century.
Bassano painted this devotional subject, for a chapel in the town's cathedral, depicting Christ's miraculous appearance after the Resurrection (Luke 24:13). In the act of blessing and breaking bread at the inn, Christ reveals himself to two of his disciples who previously had not recognized him. The sacramental message is further conveyed in the finely executed still life of bread, wine, and eggs--the latter a traditional symbol of resurrection and immortality. By including such elements of everyday life as a servant in accurately portrayed contemporary dress, and a quarrelsome cat and dog, Bassano has in this work brought the miracle into the scope of the viewer's experience to a degree that no previous artist had achieved.