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Nancy Flanagan
brent grant
2005, 16" x 12", oil on canvas


Nancy painted a series of depositions in 2005 and exhibited them at The Painting Center and that is where I first saw this painting, based on Jean Jouvenet’s Descent from the Cross (1697).


The original is 9 x 12 feet and Nancy's painting is 9 x 12 inches. It is extremely economical in every way. The brushstrokes are few in number and each one is telling. Manet and Velasquez could paint like this (and I’ve always wanted to be able to.) The strokes imply detail from a distance but are abstract seen up close. The palette is also very simple and clear, unmuddied.

I think Jouvenet himself would laugh if he saw this copy.

Laugh? At a picture of a dead body being taken down from a torture scene by grieving friends?

It’s confusing. I’m not unmoved by the subject and yet, to give another example, I was once in an uptown New York apartment and on the living room wall hung a gorgeous Titian. I was very excited and kept saying, “How can these people afford a Titian?” (thinking they would all be in museums by now) and my more knowledgeable friend said, “Oh, the gruesome subjects are cheaper.” It was Salome with the head of John the Baptist on a plate, and it had not occurred to me that it was gruesome or that some people wouldn’t want to live with it.

The Salome pictured below has an interesting story. It was also in private hands (but not the uptown New York ones) and was not recognized as a Titian. It sold for 8,000 pounds at Christies and the original owners sued Christies when they later saw it in a Titian show. It’s been valued at four million pounds.


Nancy works almost entirely from life. This painting has many similarities to her copy of The Descent:

  BIRD, 1999, 4” x 5”

This is a site showing many “descents from the cross.”

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