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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Bernardo Daddi/The Crucifixion/c. 1320/1325,” Italian Paintings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, NGA Online Editions, (accessed December 04, 2023).

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Mar 21, 2016 Version

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This small painting was probably the right-hand side of a diptych with two hinged panels. Very likely the panel opposite depicted the Virgin and Child. The man or woman who meditated on this image during private devotions would have made an intimate connection with the grief of the mourners who stood at the foot of the cross. The Gospels differ in their accounts of the Crucifixion, and so do paintings of it. Here, on the left, the swooning Virgin is accompanied by a group of holy women. One helps support her as she collapses against John the Evangelist. While they look at Mary with tender concern, all other eyes are turned toward Jesus and the angels who collect his blood. Mary Magdalene, recognized by her long flowing tresses, kneels and grasps the cross despairingly. Among the men on the right, in the armor of a Roman soldier, is the centurion who was converted on the spot, saying “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

Small devotional works like this were a specialty of Bernardo Daddi (active by 1320, died probably 1348) and his workshop, one of the busiest in Florence in the first half of the 14th century. During those years, Daddi was the city’s leading painter. He may have studied with Giotto (Florentine, c. 1265 - 1337), adopting Giotto’s new way of giving real-world weight to figures by modeling them with light and shadow. But Daddi’s own style became less solid and more graceful and ornamental over time. The mourners in this work are ethereal, long, and slender, suggesting another influence, this one from the more abstracted and decorative style of Sienese painters.


The panel, which to judge from its proportions and rectangular shape was probably originally the right shutter of a diptych,[1] shows the Crucifixion, with the kneeling Mary Magdalene clinging to the cross; to the left, Mary, Mother of Jesus, who swoons, supported by her arm on the shoulders of one of the holy women on one side and Saint John on the other;[2] and, to the right, the centurion, a Pharisee, and a third man, who witness the Crucifixion with arms and eyes raised and seem to speak to Christ on the cross.[3] To the sides of the cross, against the gold ground, small angels in flight gather the blood that flows from the Savior’s wounds.

Mentioned only perfunctorily by art historians, but in general linked to the name of Bernardo Daddi, the painting in the National Gallery of Art was first introduced to the literature by F. Mason Perkins (1911) as a “genuine, albeit rather weak little work” of this artist.[4] Later scholars confirmed the attribution until Richard Offner declassified the painting in 1930, inserting it among those erroneously attributed to the master.[5] Osvald Sirén (1917) compared the panel to similar versions of the Crucifixion painted by the artist, particularly those in the Galleria dell’Accademia and Museo Horne in Florence; he judged it an early work,[6] while Raimond Van Marle (1924) pointed out its affinity with the portable triptych in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena, dated 1336.[7] Lionello Venturi (1931), however, rejected Offner’s doubts about the autograph status of the Washington Crucifixion, and compared the painting with Bernardo’s portable triptych dated 1333 in the Museo del Bigallo in Florence; Venturi (1933) maintained that the work was actually superior in quality to the triptych in the Lindenau-­Museum in Altenburg,[8] in which Offner, by contrast, recognized Bernardo’s hand. Further, after Offner (1958) noted for the first time retouches in various parts of the panel and proposed a classification “close to the Master of S. Martino alla Palma,” opinions were divided: Bernard Berenson (1963), followed by Burton Fredericksen and Federico Zeri (1972), maintained the attribution to Bernardo, while the Gallery (1965, 1968, 1985) and Fern Rusk Shapley (1966) classified the painting as “attributed to Daddi,” and Wolfgang Kermer (1967) and later Shapley herself (1979) spoke of “Follower of Daddi.”[9] The present writer, after having cited the panel as a studio work by the artist (1984), has since 1989 expressed his conviction that it is a fully autograph work by Bernardo.[10] Ada Labriola (1999) also accepted this proposal, as did Laurence Kanter (in correspondence), who noted similarities to the so-called Master of San Martino alla Palma and pointed out the archaism of the frame carved in one with the panel support.[11]

The affinities noted by Offner between the Washington Crucifixion and the work of the Master of San Martino alla Palma are worth underlining, since they throw some light on Daddi’s beginnings and on the date of this painting. Thought in the past to be a follower of Bernardo, the Master of San Martino alla Palma is now recognized to have been at work not after, but at the same time as, Daddi’s initial phase and had probably begun his activity even earlier.[12] The very fact that he used freehand incisions with a graving tool, and not punch marks, to decorate the halos and ornamental borders of his paintings suggests that the Master’s oeuvre did not extend beyond the third decade of the fourteenth century; it was only after that date that the use of decorations with punched motifs in the gold ground of panels began to spread rapidly in Florence.[13] In light of our present knowledge, the very real similarities to the Master of San Martino alla Palma that Offner observed in our painting would imply a relatively precocious date for it, which can be extended also to two other similar compositions from Bernardo’s early phase, one in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston [14] and the other, of which only two fragments are known today, divided between the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Strossmayer Gallery in Zagreb [fig. 1].[15] The affinities of all these paintings with those of the Master of San Martino alla Palma are undeniable, but the figures’ more elongated proportions, the more spacious but less rigorously calibrated structure of the compositions, and the figures’ restrained gestures and ponderous movements reveal a phase of particular attention to Giottesque models in the development of the young Daddi.[16] For his part, the Master of San Martino alla Palma, whom Offner called “a painter of a lyrical sweetness and bird-like volubility,”[17] never shows any signs of particular interest in Giotto’s figurative world. A motif like the swooning Madonna, who is supported by one of the holy women and by Saint John and who seems to be falling forward, as in the panel discussed here and in the fragment in Zagreb, is absent from numerous other, presumably later versions of the Crucifixion painted by Bernardo.[18] The passage would seem to suggest that the panel belongs to a phase of youthful experimentation preceding the dated examples of 1333. Several stylistic data seem, in my view, to lead to the same conclusion. Admittedly, in the Washington Crucifixion we no longer find the rigidly static composition nor the ponderous forms that distinguish the figures in the phase of Daddi’s closest allegiance to Giottesque models, datable between 1315 and the early 1320s, such as the frescoes in the Pulci and Berardi chapel in Santa Croce in Florence.[19] Nor do we find in it the spontaneity and immediacy of communication that characterize the triptych in the Uffizi, Florence, dated 1328, and that would become increasingly evident in subsequent works by the artist.[20] The lack of punched motifs, as well as the use of pseudo-­Kufic inscriptions in the marginal decoration of the painting in the Gallery, similarly suggests a dating prior to c. 1330,[21] perhaps within the first half of the third decade.

Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

March 21, 2016


upper center on the tablet topping the cross: IC . XC (Jesus Christ) [1]

Inscription Notes

[1] The Greek letters are the commonly used abbreviations of IHCOYC XRICTOC, the Greek version of the name Jesus with the title Christ, literally the “Anointed One” (the translation of the Hebrew “Messiah”); Hans Feldbusch, “Christusmonogramm,” in Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, edited by Otto Schmitt and Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München, 10 vols., Stuttgart, 1937-2003: 3(1954):707-720.


(N. van Slochem, New York) by 1908;[1] sold 1910 to Dan Fellows Platt [1873-1938], Englewood, New Jersey;[2] sold November 1943 by Trustees of the Platt Estate to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[3] gift 1961 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitive Paintings, Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge, Massachusettes, 1915, unnumbered checklist.
Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1917, no. 3, repro., as Christ on the Cross by Bernardo Daddi.
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, May-October 1939, no. 72, repro.
Seven Centuries of Painting: A Loan Exhibition at San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, December 1939-January 1940, no. 13.
Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 795.

Technical Summary

The support is a single wooden panel [1] with vertical grain, whose frame was carved as one with the panel. The panel and the frame were prepared with a fabric interlayer on which the gesso ground was applied. The gesso was then covered with a layer of red bole in the area to be gilded. The interface between the painted and gilded areas was demarcated by incising. Single point punches and incised patterns were used to create the halos and to decorate the gilding along the outside edge of the pictorial surface. The paint was applied with the small, discrete brushstrokes typical of tempera technique and with green underpaint in the flesh areas. Remnants of silver leaf are evident in the helmet and boots of the centurion on the right side.

The support has been damaged by woodworm in the past, as is apparent in the x-radiographs. To address this insecurity and a history of blistering, Stephen Pichetto cradled the panel in 1944. The gilding, bole, and gesso have been lost along the outer edges of the frame. The painted surface is generally worn, with many inpainted losses along the edges of figures, where the paint covers the edges of the gold leaf background. The gilded background is well preserved, but the mordant gilding on the decorative borders of the garments survives only in remnants. The silver leaf of the centurion’s helmet and boots, also present only as remnants, has tarnished to black. All shadowed areas in the faces of Christ, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin have been reinforced with transparent dark glazes, and the bridge of Christ’s nose and the shadows of his legs have been reconstructed. Inpainted losses and highlights can be seen in the profile of the Pharisee on the right side. The angels’ faces have been reconstructed and their wings generously inpainted. The garments of the Virgin are very worn. According to records in the NGA conservation files, Stephen Pichetto performed a “slight cleaning,” inpainted losses, and revarnished the painting at the time of the cradling in 1944.[2] The varnish is glossy and slightly yellow.


Perkins, F. Mason. "Dipinti italiani nella raccolta Platt." Rassegna d’Arte 11 (1911): 1.
Brown, Alice van Vechten, and William Rankin. A Short History of Italian Painting. London and New York, 1914: 65 n. 3.
Sirén, Osvald. "Pictures in America by Bernardo Daddi, Taddeo Gaddi, Andrea Orcagna and His Brothers, I." Art in America 2 (1914): 264.
Edgell, George Harold. "The Loan Exhibitiion of Italian Paintings in the Fogg Museum, Cambridge." Art and Archaeology II, no. 1 (July 1915): 13.
Sirén, Osvald. Giotto and Some of His Followers. 2 vols. Translated by Frederic Schenck. Cambridge, 1917: 1:168, 270; 2:pl. 147.
Gilman, Margaret. "A Triptych by Bernardo Daddi." Art in America (1918): 213.
Offner, Richard. "Italian Pictures at the New York Historical Society and Elsewhere." Art in America 7 (1919): 149.
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 3(1924):378.
Comstock, Helen. "The Bernardo Daddis in the United States." International Studio 38 (1928): 21.
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. III: The Works of Bernardo Daddi. New York, 1930: 5.
Venturi, Lionello. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931: no. 35, repro.
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932: 165.
Venturi, Lionello. Italian Paintings in America. Translated by Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott. 3 vols. New York and Milan, 1933: 1:no. 44, repro.
Berenson, Bernard. Pitture italiane del rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi. Translated by Emilio Cecchi. Milan, 1936: 142.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R., and Alfred M. Frankfurter. Masterpieces of Art. Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair, 1939. Official Souvenir Guide and Picture Book. New York, 1939: no. 32.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 15, repro., as by the Riminese Master.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 12, repro., as by Bernardo Daddi.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. Supplement to the Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1946: 21, repro.
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 23.
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. VIII: Workshop of Bernardo Daddi. New York, 1958: 142-143, pl. 38.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 20, repro., as by Bernardo Daddi.
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Florentine School. 2 vols. London, 1963: 1:58.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 36.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 25-27, fig. 69.
Kermer, Wolfgang. "Studien zum Diptych in der sakralen Malerei von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts." 2 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, Eberhardt-Karls-Universität, Tübingen, 1967: 1:255 n. 48.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 29, repro.
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 63, 290, 646, 665.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 90, repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:154-155; 2:pl. 109.
Boskovits, Miklós. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. 9: The Miniaturist Tendency. Florence, 1984: 67 n. 246.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 111, repro.
Offner, Richard, Miklós Boskovits, and Enrica Neri Lusanna. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. III: The Works of Bernardo Daddi. 2nd ed. Florence, 1989: 67, 391.
Offner, Richard, Miklós Boskovits, Ada Labriola, and Martina Ingendaay Rodio. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. V: Master of San Martino alla Palma; Assistant of Daddi; Master of the Fabriano Altarpiece. 2nd ed. Florence, 2001: 13 n. 22, 635.
Skaug, Erling S. "Bernardo Daddi’s Chronology and Workshop Structure as Defined by Technical Criteria." In Da Giotto a Botticelli: pittura fiorentina tra gotico e rinascimento. Atti del convegno internazionale Firenze, Università degli Studi e Museo di San Marco, May 20-21, 2005. Edited by Francesca Pasut and Johannes Tripps. Florence, 2008: 79-96.
Boskovits, Miklós. Italian Paintings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2016: 58-63, color repro.

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