Sebastiano del Piombo's Úbeda altarpiece : imaging personal devotion for a cross-cultural gift
Between 1533 and 1539, Sebastiano del Piombo painted the Úbeda "Pietà" for Francisco de los Cobos, advisor to Emperor Charles V, at the behest of Ferrante Gonzaga. Art historians have long acknowledged the painting's role as an ingratiating gift from Gonzaga to the powerful imperial advisor. However, little attention has been paid to the painting's specific, and peculiar, imagery. Nor have scholars addressed the painting's imagery as a significant component of the gift that Gonzaga offered to Cobos. This thesis examines the commission and production of the Úbeda Pietà in relation to the political and devotional concerns of its patron, artist, and recipient. In addition to the dead Christ and the Virgin, the image included Passion relics related to devotional cults of particular interest to Cobos and which were associated with imperial triumph. Gonzaga's selection of Sebastiano as the artist for the commission added the prestige of a papal official's involvement in the creation of the gift. While Sebastiano may have relied on Gonzaga for certain iconographic decisions, his own contributions to the composition were considerable, and the painting's final form is far less dependent on Michelangelo's intervention than most scholars have allowed.