Click on any panel in the altarpiece reconstruction below to see an enlarged version of the image. Color reproductions in the reconstruction indicate panels in the National Gallery of Art collection.
Saint John the Evangelist, most beloved of Jesus’s disciples, holds his head in sadness. According to John’s Gospel, he was present at Christ’s crucifixion, and this panel, along with one depicting the
The cross to which the Gallery's panels belonged was probably made for the church of San Francesco in Bologna, and has a touching story around it. A commentary written in the late 1300s recounts how a crucifix in that church had spoken to console a monk visiting from England. That monk was John of Pecham, a Franciscan theologian who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1279 after his return to England. The story helps define the probable dating of the Gallery's two pictures, which are not signed or dated. This anonymous artist painted crucifixes for other Franciscan churches—hence the name he has been given by scholars. Those included one at the basilica in Assisi, the mother church of the order and where Saint Francis is buried. It is likely that the artist trained in Assisi, and since all his known works seem to have been Franciscan commissions, he may well have been a Franciscan friar himself.
The two mourners would have appeared at the ends of the cross’s lateral arms—Mary on the left, John on the right. The dimensions of the two panels—each nearly three feet tall—suggest just how large the entire cross must have been. Examples that survive intact often measure 10 feet tall or more.
Because of their relatively large size, this panel and its companion,
See Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 174–176, and, on the genre of the painted crucifixes, Hans Belting, Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst (Munich, 1990), 400–406.
Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 221, considered the panels to belong to the apron (tabellone) of a painted crucifix (i.e., the lateral compartments flanking the body of Christ). Gertrude Coor was the first to recognize that the fragments belong to the crucifix of Santa Maria in Borgo; she orally communicated this conclusion to Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:312 n. 4. Previously, Giulia Sinibaldi, in Pittura italiana del Duecento e Trecento: Catalogo della mostra giottesca di Firenze del 1937, ed. Giulia Sinibaldi and Giulia Brunetti (Florence, 1943), 151, had proposed that the two paintings belonged to the crucifix formerly in the choir and now in the Library of the Convent of San Francesco; but cf. in this regard Silvia Giorgi, in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 200–201.
Circular painting or relief carving. It developed as an independent form in Florence in the first half of the 15th century, though earlier examples do exist, for example in France with Jean Malouel’s Pietà (Paris, Louvre) which dates c. 1400. Many of the surviving Italian tondi depict themes that also occurred on the desco da parto, from which the tondo may have evolved. This was a circular or polygonal painted tray made to celebrate the birth of a child and presented to the mother with gifts of sweetmeats and fruit. Tondi paintings were produced in Florence primarily for domestic settings, with the Adoration of the Magi and the Virgin and Child being particularly popular subjects. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
It was Edward Garrison who recognized that the fragment, which measures 40 cm in diameter, belonged to his “Borgo Crucifix Master.” The panel, with a provenance from the Oertel collection in Dresden, was stolen from the dealer Bacri in 1939 and has never been rediscovered. See Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 219. Gertrude Coor proposed that it originally formed part of the Santa Maria in Borgo crucifix in a verbal communication to Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:312 n. 4.
The two panels represent, respectively, the mother of Jesus and his favorite disciple in the typical pose of mourners, with the head bowed to one side and the cheek resting on the palm of the hand.
This was a gesture of sorrow already familiar in classical art and widespread in medieval art. See Moshe Barasch, Gestures of Despair in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art (New York, 1976), 129 n. 15; François Garnier, Le langage de l’image au Moyen Age, vol. 1, Signification et symbolique (Paris, 1982), 181–184.
The maphorion was a sort of shawl used in Byzantium both in male and female costume; see Harry Kühnel, ed., Bildwörterbuch der Kleidung und Rüstung: Vom Alten Orient bis zum ausgehenden Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 1992), 168–169. A common element in Byzantine and Byzantinizing representations of the Madonna, an example of maphorion was preserved as a much-venerated relic in the Blancherna monastery in Istanbul; see Averil Cameron, “The Early Cult of the Virgin,” in The Mother of God: The Representation of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. Maria Vassilaki (Milan and London, 2000), 11–13.
The distinctive colors of the saint are generally an azure (or blue) tunic and a pink (or red) mantle; cf. Margrit Lisner, “Die Gewandfarben der Apostel in Giottos Arenafresken: Farbgebung und Farbikonographie mit Notizen zu älteren Aposteldarstellungen in Florenz, Assisi und Rom,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 53 (1990): 334.
“Ihr Zusammenhang mit dem bolognesen Kruzifix geht überzeugend sowohl aus der Figurenzeichnung wie aus dem Typen und der Faltenbehandlung vor,” Osvald Sirén, Toskanische Maler im XIII. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1922), 222.
Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, vol. 1, From the 6th until the End of the 13th Century (The Hague, 1923), 402.
Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection, New York (Paris, 1928), nos. 59, 60.
Recognizing that establishing a common authorship for the various painted crucifixes with a provenance from Umbria and Emilia-Romagna was problematic, Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà asserted that it was at least plausible to assume they were works of “un unico maestro . . . probabilmente Bolognese . . . che si sarebbe recato ad Assisi . . . e poi tornato a Bologna portando con sé . . . gli insegnamenti del Maestro di San Francesco” (a single master, probably Bolognese, who would have gone to Assisi and later returned to Bologna, bringing with him the teachings of the Master of Saint Francis). Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà, La croce dipinta italiana e l’iconografia della Passione (Verona, 1929), 857.
While most art historians have accepted Sirén’s view and the conventional name he coined for the master,
August L. Mayer, “Die Sammlung Philip Lehman,” Pantheon 5 (1930): 115; National Gallery of Art, Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection (Washington, DC, 1945), 4–5; Robert Langton Douglas, “Recent Additions to the Kress Collection,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 88 (1946): 85; Alfred M. Frankfurter, Supplement to the Kress Collection in the National Gallery (New York, 1946), 15; Hans Vollmer, “Meister des hl. Franziskus von Assis,” in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker, and Hans Vollmer, 37 vols. (Leipzig, 1950), 37:105; Fern Rusk Shapley and John Shapley, Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (New York, 1957), 13, pl. 3; Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII–XV Century (London, 1966), 4; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:312–313; Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1972), 287, 646, 665; Pietro Scarpellini, “Le pitture,” in Il tesoro della Basilica di San Francesco ad Assisi, ed. Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré Dal Poggetto (Assisi, 1980), 40–41 (though he referred to the work under the alternative name of Maestro Crocifissi Blu); Anna Tambini, Pittura dall’Alto Medioevo al Tardogotico nel territorio di Faenza e Forlì (Faenza, 1982), 34–35 (who adopted as the conventional name for the group “Maestro di Santa Maria in Borgo”); Elvio Lunghi, “Maestro dei Crocifissi Blu,” in La Pittura in Italia: Il Duecento e il Trecento, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo, 2 vols. (Milan, 1986), 2:596; Filippo Todini, La pittura umbra dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento, 2 vols. (Milan, 1989), 1:125; Angelo Tartuferi, Giunta Pisano (Soncino, 1991), 82, 94; Patricia Lurati, in Sauver Assise, ed., Giovanni Morello (Milan, 1998), 50 (all with the name “Maestro dei Crocifissi Blu,” to whom Todini and Tartuferi denied the crucifix now in the Pinacoteca of Bologna); Laurence B. Kanter and Pia Palladino, in The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi, ed. Giovanni Morello and Laurence B. Kanter (Milan, 1999), 64; Daniele Benati et al., in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 106 n. 42, 125, 186, 194, 197–200, 201, 203, 210; Silvia Giorgi, “Maestro dei Crocifissi Francescani,” in La pittura in Europa: Il dizionario dei pittori, ed. Carlo Pirovano, 3 vols. (Milan, 2002), 2:534; Silvia Giorgi, in Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, catalogo generale, vol. 1, Dal Duecento a Francesco Francia, ed. Jadranka Bentini, Gian Piero Cammarota, and Daniela Scaglietti Kelescian (Venice, 2004), 43; Anna Tambini, Storia delle arti figurative a Faenza, vol. 1, Le origini (Faenza, 2006), 75, 79. The only clearly dissenting opinion seems to be that of Berenson, who wrote the name of Coppo di Marcovaldo as the master on the back of the photograph sent to him for his examination (copy in NGA curatorial files), but Joanna Cannon also considered the attribution scarcely convincing. See Joanna Cannon, “The Era of the Great Painted Crucifix: Giotto, Cimabue, Giunta Pisano, and their Anonymous Contemporaries,” Renaissance Studies 16 (2002): 576.
See Lionello Venturi, Pitture italiane in America (Milan, 1931), no. 5; Lionello Venturi, Italian Paintings in America, trans. Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott, 3 vols. (New York and Milan, 1933), 1: no. 6; Luigi Coletti, I Primitivi, vol. 1, 120 tavole (Novara, 1941), 24 (to be attributed “almost certainly to Giunta”). Recently, Mariagiulia Burresi and Antonino Caleca suggested Giunta’s authorship, though with a question mark and without mentioning the Washington panels. See Mariagiulia Burresi and Antonino Caleca, eds., Cimabue a Pisa: La pittura pisana del Duecento da Giunta a Giotto (Pisa, 2005), 73, 74–75.
Giulia Sinibaldi, in Pittura italiana del Duecento e Trecento: Catalogo della mostra giottesca di Firenze del 1937, ed. Giulia Sinibaldi and Giulia Brunetti (Florence, 1943), 149, 151 (who classified the panels as works of a Bolognese Giuntesque painter, to be distinguished from the master of the Umbrian paintings to whom Osvald Sirén and Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà connected them); and Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 14, 221 n. 605 (who attributed to the “Borgo Crucifix Master” only the crucifix now in the Pinacoteca of Bologna, the fragments being discussed here, and the tondo placed on top of the cimasa formerly in the possession of the dealer Bacri in Paris). Osvald Sirén, Toskanische Maler im xiii. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1922), 223, 224; Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà, La croce dipinta italiana e l’iconografia della Passione (Verona, 1929), 845, 855, 857, 884.
Apart from the fragmentary fresco representing the Madonna and Child Enthroned and Saint Peter, which I have added to the catalog of the painter, two panels of a dismantled diptych have also been recognized as works of the same master: the one leaf representing the Crucifixion now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and its companion panel, Madonna and Child, in a private collection, identified by Filippo Todini. Cf. Miklós Boskovits, in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 196; Ferdinando Bologna, La pittura italiana delle origini (Rome, 1962), 79; and Filippo Todini, “Pittura del Duecento e del Trecento in Umbria e il cantiere di Assisi,” in La Pittura in Italia: Il Duecento e il Trecento, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo, 2 vols. (Milan, 1986), 2:376 fig. 577. The name Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes also is now generally accepted in the catalogs of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, whereas the conventional name of Maestro del Crocifisso di Borgo had been preferred in the past. See Rosa D’Amico, La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (Venice, 2001), 12 – 14; and Silvia Giorgi, in Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, catalogo generale, vol. 1, Dal Duecento a Francesco Francia, ed. Jadranka Bentini, Gian Piero Cammarota, and Daniela Scaglietti Kelescian (Venice, 2004), 41–44.
The chronological sequence of the works attributable to the anonymous master is still under discussion. Useful clues can be deduced, however, from a comparison between some passages, such as the figure of the mourning Saint John, that frequently recur in his paintings. In my view, the pictorial treatment of the apostle in the crucifixes in the Treasury of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, the Pinacoteca of Faenza, the bank in Camerino, and the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna not only confirm that these works were all painted by the same master but also suggest that their order of execution must have been that listed above. In the four versions of the image of Saint John, the design seems to gain in fluidity and the contours in movement, while the forms become more segmented, or ruffled, by the increasingly close-set alignment of the drapery folds. At the same time, the pose of the apostle gradually assumes the hanchement so dear to
Term used to denote, since the 15th century, the architecture and, from the 19th century onward, all the visual arts of Europe during a period extending by convention from about 1120 to c. 1400 in central Italy, and until the late 15th century and even well into the 16th century in northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. The early gothic style overlapped chronologically with Romanesque and flourished after the onset of Renaissance art in Italy and elsewhere. The term gothic is applied to western European painting of the 13th century to the early 15th century. Unlike gothic architecture, it is distinguished more by developments in style and function than in technique, and even in these areas there is considerable national and regional diversity. The applicability of the term to Italian painting is debated, as is its usefulness in accounting for developments in Netherlandish painting from the early 15th century. Contact with Byzantine art was close in the early 13th century, but after c. 1250 survived principally in the Holy Roman Empire and Italy. —Peter Kidson, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
On this work, see Elvio Lunghi, “La decorazione pittorica della chiesa,” in La basilica di Santa Chiara in Assisi (Ponte San Giovanni, Perugia, 1994), 151–164.
On the painting, see Serena Romano, in Dipinti, sculture e ceramiche della Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria: Studi e restauri, ed. Caterina Bon Valsassina and Vittoria Garibaldi (Florence, 1994), 63–65.
For essential information on the Master of San Felice di Giano, see Giordana Benazzi, in Dipinti, sculture e ceramiche della Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria: Studi e restauri, ed. Caterina Bon Valsassina and Vittoria Garibaldi (Florence, 1994), 66–67. The crucifix in the Museo in Spoleto is reproduced in Filippo Todini, La pittura umbra dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento, 2 vols. (Milan, 1989), 2: figs. 26, 27.
I refer to the painted crucifix in the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte in Bologna, which Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà (1929) ascribed to the catalog of the Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes but which is generally classified in the more recent literature as a work of an anonymous Bolognese master, or the crucifix in the church of Santa Croce at Villa Verucchio near Forlì. See Evelyn Sandberg-Vavalà, La croce dipinta italiana e l’iconografia della Passione (Verona, 1929), 855; Silvia Giorgi, in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 210–212; Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 217.
See Anita Fiderer Moskowitz, Nicola Pisano’s Arca di San Domenico and Its Legacy (University Park, PA, 1994).
That the two fragments formed part of the crucifix now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna must remain a hypothesis that only proper scientific and technical analysis of the panels could corroborate. Yet the dimensions and pictorial treatment of the panels now divided among the galleries of Bologna and Washington and a private collection provide strong arguments to support the view that they originally belonged together. As for the measurements, the two panels in the Gallery, slightly cropped to the sides, are very similar in size to the upper terminal of the Bolognese crucifix
In the absence of the original frame, it cannot be established how the panels now in Washington were joined to the crucifix of which they formed part. But if we consider that the width of the two lateral terminals in both the crucifix in the Muzzarelli Chapel of San Francesco in Assisi and in that in the Pinacoteca at Faenza is the same as the height of the upper terminal, it seems significant that the terminal still joined to the cimasa of the crucifix in the Pinacoteca of Bologna—the Madonna and Two Angels—has measurements very close to those of the Gallery's panels, namely, 33 × 84 cm. I wish to thank Dr. Paola Checchi for kindly measuring this part of the crucifix for me.
An initial layer of paint applied to a ground that begins to define shapes and values.
Massimo Medica, “La città dei libri e dei miniatori,” in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 123–125, pointed out the probable influence of the Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes on Bolognese miniatures of the time.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
The two fragments (NGA 1952.5.13 and .14) were originally lateral terminals of a painted Crucifix presumably made for the church of San Francesco, Bologna, sometime after 1254 and before 1278; the Crucifix is known to have been in the Lombardi Malvezzi Chapel in that church in 1577, and was transported to the Bolognese church of Santa Maria in Borgo in 1801 (perhaps by which time its two lateral terminals might have been removed); purchased, probably in Italy, by Osvald Sirén [1879–1966], Stockholm, by 1922. Philip Lehman [1861–1947], New York, by 1928; purchased June 1943 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to NGA.
- Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 809.
- The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi, Petit Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1998-1999, no. 3/2, repro., as The Mourning [same] by Master of the Blue Crucifixes (shown only in New York).
- Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna, 2000, no. 50, repro.
Both this painting and its companion,
Because the panel was thinned, mounted on an auxiliary wood panel, and then cradled, it is difficult to see clearly the join lines in the original panel in x-radiographs, but a slight horizontal disruption in the curve of the panel (on the front) occurring through the figure’s heads, hips, and below their knees suggests join lines in these areas. The joins are located at approximately 18 cm and 42 cm from the bottom edge in both panels.
A mixture of finely ground plaster and glue applied to wood panels to create a smooth painting surface. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
The panels are in fair state. During a treatment by Stephen Pichetto in 1944, they were thinned and attached to secondary panels with auxiliary
Attaching a woodent grid to the reverse of a panel to prevent the panel's warping.
Application of restoration paint to areas of lost original paint to visually integrate an area of loss with the color and pattern of the original, without covering any original paint.
The layer or layers used to prepare the support to hold the paint.
A gradual loss of material on the surface. It can be caused by rubbing, wearing, or scraping against itself or another material. It may be a deteriorative process that occurs over time as a result of weathering or handling or it may be due to a deliberate attempt to smooth the material.
A layer of paint that covers original paint.
On Stephen Pichetto’s intervention, see Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:313 n. 8. She reported that the panels were cradled, cleaned, restored, and varnished on this occasion; however, the photographs published by Sirén in 1922 show the two fragments practically in the same state as they are at present. The 1944 restoration therefore must have been preceded by an earlier one and must have been rather light as far as the painted surface is concerned. Saint John the Evangelist must have been treated at least one other time prior to Pichetto’s treatment. In the photograph published by Robert Lehman in 1928, the join in the center of the panel is considerably cracked and open. However, this was repaired in the photographs taken prior to Pichetto’s treatment. Interestingly, the join is not cracked in the photograph published by Sirén in 1922. Either Lehman used an old photograph or the join opened up between 1922 and 1928. See Osvald Sirén, Toskanische Maler im XIII. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1922), pl. 82; Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection, New York (Paris, 1928), no. 60.
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- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 85.
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- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 253, repro.
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