National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Helena Cima da Conegliano (artist)
Venetian, c. 1459 - 1517 or 1518
Saint Helena, c. 1495
oil on panel
overall: 40.2 x 32.2 cm (15 13/16 x 12 11/16 in.) framed: 61 x 53.3 x 6.4 cm (24 x 21 x 2 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.12
On View
From the Tour: Venetian Painting in the Early Renaissance
Object 7 of 7

Mother of the emperor Constantine, Saint Helena journeyed to the Holy Land, where she found the True Cross, the cross of the crucifixion, which she holds here. Scenes of saints in landscape settings like this were something of a specialty of the artist.

Cima had moved to Venice by the mid-1480s but always remained in close contact with his hometown of Conegliano on the mainland. The town's castello and other landmarks appear in the background of this small devotional panel. Almost all of Cima's paintings include idyllic landscapes that recall the mountainous region of his home.

Cima formed his artistic style early in life and never deviated from it. Even though his clear colors and meticulous detail became a bit old-fashioned, his work remained popular with Venetian patrons, especially the more conservative ones. In the 1490s, when Bellini became occupied with decorations for the doge's palace, Cima became the leading painter of altarpieces in Venice. He is sometimes referred to as a "rustic" Bellini for his direct and ingenuous figures, which he posed with greater casualness than Bellini, relaxing the imposing symmetry of Bellini's compositions. The informality and greater sense of movement exhibited by Cima's figures influenced Titian and other Venetian artists of the next generation.

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