This small figure of Christ bearing his cross to Calvary is full of deep pathos: pilgrims’ guides to the Holy Land pointed to the stone on the Via Dolorosa on which Christ was said to have fallen, and his braced arm with the hand clutching this stone dramatically sets off the lack of strength in his exhausted body. The dragged left leg can carry him no further. The face is marked with profound suffering, and the heavy modelling of the drapery conveys the weight bearing him down, even in the absence of the cross.
Not surprisingly, the model proved remarkably popular, and there are at least 17 bronze casts of varying quality (but many extremely fine), not to mention examples in other materials, or copies in different dimensions. Yet strangely there is no documentation, and I know of only one mention in an inventory (of the silversmith Antonio d’Amico Moretti, of 1690) of a bronze which was probably of this model.
It was first ascribed to Algardi by Hermanin in 1924; other names were subsequently proposed, but the attribution to Algardi now seems to be generally accepted. The modelling is entirely in his manner. The head and hair are close to the Crucifix which is undoubtedly by him, and the figure shares many features with the Baptism of Christ now generally agreed to be his work. The modelling of the drapery in broad planes between ridged folds, creating a pattern of highlights enclosing deep shadows, can be compared to his small model for the St. Nicholas of Tolentino. This is a late work, and I believe that the Christ Falling under the Cross would also have been made late in the sculptor’s life.