Oil on canvas. 213.3 x 91.4 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Francesco (Cecchino) Bracci, the nephew of Luigi del Riccio, was an extremely beautiful youth closely linked to Michelangelo. When Bracci died at the age of just fifteen in January 1544, his family commissioned the artist to design his tomb in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, in Rome, and to write a series of epitaphs. David Hockney painted In Memoriam of Cecchino Bracci in London in autumn 1962. It shows the young man inside his coffin, wrapped in a shroud, his arms crossed over his chest and wearing an incongruous bowler hat, perhaps an eccentric touch of humour and irony. Above his body a laurel wreath encircles the word "CECCHINO" and, lower right, in tiny lettering, are the first lines of one of Michelangelo's epigrams praising the youth's beauty: "If buried here those beautiful eyes are closed forever. This is now my requiem: They were alive and no one noticed them. Now everybody weeps them dead and lost".
David Hockney, a companion of Kitaj's at the London Royal College of Art and one of the foremost British Pop artists until he moved to Los Angeles to live in 1964, displays the versatility of his art in the present painting. The young man's legs, hands and head are rendered in an expressionistic style, while the laurel wreath is painted with the technical virtuosity that would characterise much of the painter's oeuvre. To these figurative elements Hockney adds various abstract brushstrokes dabbed on in lines, in white, ochre and black, in the central part of the composition. In addition, to establish a play between reality and the painted image, the canvas reproduces the shape of a tomb in order, according to the artist, to "ignore the concept of illusionistic space and paint merrily in a flat style".