Sacred Sunday: The Art of Easter, Part 2 of 4

Crucifixion c. 1344 Fresco Chapterhouse, San Francesco, Assisi

Crucifixion
c. 1344
Fresco
Chapterhouse, San Francesco, Assisi

In this large – incomplete – fresco the figures of Sts Louis of Toulouse, Paul, the Virgin Mary, Francis, John, Clare, Peter, and Anthony of Padua are lined up at the feet of a gigantic Christ. It reveals, in the quality of its colour and the classical composure of the forms, the influence of the late Giotto.

Crucifixion 1420-25 Oil on wood transferred to canvas, 56,5 x 19,5 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Crucifixion
1420-25
Oil on wood transferred to canvas, 56,5 x 19,5 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Crucifixion and the Last Judgment (also in the Metropolitan Museum) were the side wings of a triptych, the central panel of which is lost. The attribution to Jan van Eyck is debated.

These two small pictures conjure up a veritable microcosm. Every detail is observed with equal interest – from the alpine landscape to the slender body of Christ and the emotions of the various figures. The raised lettering on the original frames forms quotations from Isaiah on the Crucifixion and from Revelations and Deuteronomy on the Last Judgment.

Last Supper, Tree of Life and Four Miracle Scenes c. 1360 Fresco, 1120 x 1170 cm Refectory, Santa Croce, Florence

Last Supper, Tree of Life and Four Miracle Scenes
c. 1360
Fresco, 1120 x 1170 cm
Refectory, Santa Croce, Florence

Taddeo Gaddi was Giotto’s most important student, belonging to his workshop for twenty-four years. He produced a number of frescoes in Florence and Pisa, besides numerous panel paintings, but until his death in 1366 he was mainly active in Santa Croce, the Franciscan monastery in Florence, and his house and workshop were nearby. His late works, from around 1360, include the fresco of the Crucifixion in the sacristy and the ensemble of paintings grouped around a Tree of Life (Arbor vitae) in the refectory of Santa Croce.

The picture shows the interior of the refectory in Santa Croce in Florence. The frescoes were commissioned by the woman in the garments of a Franciscan tertiary kneeling at the foot of the cross, behind St Francis. At the right are the Priest at his Easter Meal Receiving Word of St Benedict’s Hunger in the Wilderness, and the Magdalen Washing the Feet of Christ. At the left are the Stigmatisation of St Francis and St Louis of Toulouse Feeding the Poor and Sick of Toulouse.

Scenes from the Life of Christ: 21. Resurrection (Noli me tangere) 1304-06 Fresco, 200 x 185 cm Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Scenes from the Life of Christ: 21. Resurrection (Noli me tangere)
1304-06
Fresco, 200 x 185 cm
Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Mary Magdalene recognizes Christ on Easter morning in front of the open tomb. She attempts to speak to her Lord and to touch him. He refuses, with the words “Touch me not”. Giotto depicts the in-between status of Christ – no longer of this world, but not yet of the next world — through the wavering posture and the delicate coloring. The contrast with Mary Magdalene and the sleeping soldiers heightens this impression.

Crucifix 1240s Tempera on wood, 316 x 285 cm San Domenico, Bologna

Crucifix
1240s
Tempera on wood, 316 x 285 cm
San Domenico, Bologna

From the beginning of the 13th century the Berlinghieri, a family of painters (Berlinghiero and his sons Barone, Marco and Bonaventura), were working in Lucca. They were influenced by the new wave of Byzantinism which reached the peninsula after the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders. This courtly refined style had its first and greatest center of expansion in Pisa. This was owing to the very strong links between this maritime republic and the East, and also to several remarkable artists such as Giunta Pisano, Enrico and Ugolini di Tedice and the anonymous painter now known as the Master of S. Martino. The element of pathos in the Byzantine style was given its most extreme expression in the crucifixes of Giunta. The one painted in 1236 (which is now lost) for Elias of Cortona, the founder of the basilica of S. Francesco at Assisi, was inspired, like all Giunta’s other crucifixes, by the Eastern iconography of the ‘Christus patient’, that is the Brother of Man in His suffering. Under the influence of the Franciscans this interpretation was definitely substituted for the heroic Christ, impassive, triumphing over death.

The Crucifixion c. 1502 Oil on wood, 61,5 x 46 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington

The Crucifixion
c. 1502
Oil on wood, 61,5 x 46 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The panel is referred to as the Small Crucifixion.

The Crucifixion 1523-24 Oil on wood, 193 x 152,5 cm Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

The Crucifixion
1523-24
Oil on wood, 193 x 152,5 cm
Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

This is one of the panels of the two-part altarpiece originally in the church at Tauberbischofsheim. The Carrying the Cross was seen from the direction of the choir while the other part, the Crucifixion, from the nave.

Crucifixion 1500-05 Oil on panel, 170 x 126 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris

Crucifixion
1500-05
Oil on panel, 170 x 126 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The painting style of Lieferinxe, despite his Flemish training, fits most closely with the Avignonese school, and reveals connections to the Bramantesque culture of Lombardy.

Crucifixion 1457-59 Tempera on panel, 67 x 93 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris

Crucifixion
1457-59
Tempera on panel, 67 x 93 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The painting is the central panel of the predella of a large altarpiece commissioned for the S. Zeno in Verona. The altarpiece is in the S. Zeno, the predella picture is replaced by a copy.

Crucifixion c. 1426 Panel, 83 x 63 cm Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Crucifixion
c. 1426
Panel, 83 x 63 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

On February 19th 1426 Masaccio agreed to paint an altarpiece for a chapel in the church of the Carmine in Pisa for the sum of 80 florins. On December 26th of that year the work must have been already completed since payment for it is recorded on this date. Vasari gave a detailed description of the work which was the basis for art critics for the attempt at reconstruction and for the recovery and identification of the work which was dismantled and dispersed in the 18th century. Only eleven pieces have so far come to light and they are not sufficient to enable a reliable reconstruction of the whole work. The Crucifixion is one of the eleven panels (one of the top panels) connected with the Pisa Polyptych.

As in the main panel, the Gothic arch determines the pictorial frame, the upward stress of which Masaccio modifies in his composition. To counter the vertical trust imposed by the arch, Masaccio creates a strong horizontal effect with the rather exaggerated extension of the arms of Christ on the cross. Although Masaccio still uses the gilt background for his representation, the atmospheric effects remain hauntingly convincing.

The Resurrection c. 1445 Tempera and gold on wood, 37 x 46 cm Institute of Arts, Detroit

The Resurrection
c. 1445
Tempera and gold on wood, 37 x 46 cm
Institute of Arts, Detroit

This painting is one of five Passion panels from the predella of an unidentified altarpiece.

In the Resurrection scene, similarly to the Descent to Limbo scene, a use of deepest flat black recurs, the silhouetted hill rising to a dark tower. Behind, the dawn sky – a vermilion-streaked arc with rags of cloud hovering in stillness – is a feat of imaginative observation without precedent or heir.

Crucifixion 1427 Tempera on wood Christian Museum, Esztergom

Crucifixion
1427
Tempera on wood
Christian Museum, Esztergom

The painting originally was one of the panels of the Calvary altarpiece at Garamszentbenedek. This altarpiece is one of the most significant painting of the period in Hungary; its source can be traced to the court painting in Bohemia, and it is also related to the court painting in Burgundy.

Passion (Greverade) Altarpiece (central panel) 1491 Oil on wood, 205 x 150 cm Museum für Kunst- und Kulturgedichte, Lübeck

Passion (Greverade) Altarpiece (central panel)
1491
Oil on wood, 205 x 150 cm
Museum für Kunst- und Kulturgedichte, Lübeck

International recognition of Memling’s brilliance resulted around the end of 1480s in an important German commission, the last one recorded. The Passion triptych was painted on behalf of Heinrich Greverade or his brother Adolf (or both) for their chapel in Lübeck Cathedral. Heinrich was a merchant who represented the interests of the Hansa from the Oosterlingenhuis in Bruges. His brother became the master of Lübeck Cathedral in 1494. The donor shown in the altarpiece is probably Adolf, whose will made the foundation possible. For a variety of reasons, the chapel was not inaugurated until 1504, but the altarpiece dates from 1491 and together with the Last Judgment, the St John altarpiece and the Nájera panels it is one of the biggest works painted by Memling.

It is a triptych with double wings. When open the Carrying the Cross (left wing), the Crucifixion (central panel) and the Resurrection (right wing) can be seen. In its first closed position, the four saints to whom the altar was dedicated are visible across the full width of the triptych. The actual exterior, showing an Annunciation in grisaille, is only revealed when the wings are closed a second time. This structure was not customary in the Low Countries and was probably inspired by German, especially Lübeck, examples.

Scenes from the Passion of Christ 1470-71 Oil on oak panel, 56,7 x 92,2 cm Galleria Sabauda, Turin

Scenes from the Passion of Christ
1470-71
Oil on oak panel, 56,7 x 92,2 cm
Galleria Sabauda, Turin

This work is the first in a series of narrative paintings which came to represent an important aspect of Memling’s oeuvre. It is a `simultaneous painting’ and like the Munich Advent and Triumph of Christ belongs to the landscape-cum-architecture type. Jerusalem features at the centre of the painting as a condensed version of the circular lay-out of a medieval city. Most of the buildings are tower constructions with porticos in a pseudo-Romanesque style topped with domes. These are intended to evoke the exotic character of an Eastern city, while also creating a variety of settings for the action. The overall effect is that of a complex stage set.

The viewpoint is very high, as a result of which Calvary is visible above the city and a virtual bird’s eye-view is given of the buildings at the bottom. Although consistent one-point perspective is rendered impossible by the varied position of the different buildings, the viewer retains a sense of perspectival unity and logic, from the foreground to the level of the towers, which are ranged squarely across the horizon. In addition to perspectival unity, there is also a spatial unity in the treatment of the scenes and unity of lighting. The latter, in particular, is a rare tour de force in the painting of the period, because the light source is located within the painting and is associated visually with the rising sun on the far right, so that the area located diagonally before it in the front left remains in shadow. Only the donors, who kneel in the corners before the entire spectacle, appear to be immune from this effect. The right-hand part of the architecture, down to a stretch of the crenellated wall at the front, has a pink glow and we see the first, still low rays of the sun reaching the brick gates in the left distance.

The Passion cycle is enacted in this setting with the addition of the Resurrection and several of Christ’s appearances to his followers, but without the Ascension. This is the first time that Memling applied the spatial narrative structure that he was later to use on two other occasions (Munich and Lübeck) to present a Gospel cycle. The narrative meanders symmetrically from the rear left to the foreground and through the principal scene in the middle, before culminating on the right, once again in the distance. Calvary is set somewhat apart as the principal scene in the background. Christ’s various appearances after his Resurrection are not particularly significant in iconographical terms, and are probably included as visual links running into the landscape. The painting enabled believers to visit the Holy Places in and around Jerusalem in their imagination. It is a kind of spiritual model of the crusaders’ journey.

The donors have been identified as Tommaso Portinari, a Florentine banker in Bruges, and his wife Maria Baroncelli on the grounds of their resemblance to bust portraits of the couple painted by Memling.

Crucifix 1492 Polychrome wood, 142 x 135 cm Santo Spirito, Florence

Crucifix
1492
Polychrome wood, 142 x 135 cm
Santo Spirito, Florence

Serious considerations have lead art historians to identify this work found in the sacristy of Santo Spirito with the wooden cross mentioned by early writers as having been carved by Michelangelo in 1492 for the prior of that church. The way the head and legs are treated in contrapposto suggests a search for classical harmony. The extremely soft modelling of Christ, his tender facial expression, and the complex anatomical structure have no counterpart in any of Michelangelo’s youthful works, and some critics have reservations about its attribution to that artist.

Resurrection 1437 Panel, 148 x 140 cm Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Resurrection
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The Risen Christ, draped only in a bright red cloth, sits on a massive stone sarcophagus, the red seals on the lid of which are unbroken. The body of Christ bears the stigmata of the Crucifixion. His right hand is raised in the gesture of benediction, while in the left He holds a staff surmounted by a cross. In the confined space between the sarcophagus and the enclosing fence four armed soldiers lie in a deep sleep.

The Resurrection is one of the panels from a winged altar of considerable dimensions which has been lost without trace. Originally there was a carved central shrine, in which a Crucifixion group was probably represented. When the wings were closed, the altar showed four scenes relating to the Madonna; these (from top left to bottom right) were The Nativity, The Adoration of the Magi, The Descent of the Holy Ghost and The Death of the Virgin. When opened, the inner sides of the wings showed four scenes from the Passion, which flanked the central Crucifixion. Thus Christ on the Mount of Olives (top left), served as a companion-piece to Christ before Pilate (top right), while Christ bearing the Cross (bottom left), was placed opposite The Resurrection.

The original location of the altar has never been established. When it was dismantled, the front and rear sides of the wings became separated. On the two lower panels of the closed altar, showing The Descent of the Holy Ghost and The Death of the Virgin, the artist appended his signature : `bitte got für hanssen muoltscheren vo richehove burg ze ulm haut dz werk gemacht do ma zalt MCCCXXXVII’. Records show that in 1427 the Swabian artist, who came from Reichenhafen near Leutkirch, became a burgher of Ulm, where he worked not only as a painter but more often as a sculptor and engraver. The strength and solidity of the painted figures and their remarkable realism leave one in no doubt that Multscher combined the skills of both sculptor and painter, even though, in keeping with medieval practice, he may well have made use of a well-staffed workshop.

Resurrection of Christ with Sts Leonardo and Lucy 1491-94 Oil on panel Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Resurrection of Christ with Sts Leonardo and Lucy
1491-94
Oil on panel
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

In 1491 an altarpiece was commissioned by the brothers of the late Archbishop Leonardo Griffi for the newly constructed chapel of S Leonardo, attached to S Giovanni sul Muro, Milan. The Resurrection was the central panel of this altarpiece. It is assumed that Leonardo da Vinci provided a refined drawing for the composition. The figures of the two saints were painted by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

The Crucifixion c. 1340 Tempera on panel, 31,8 x 37,5 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington

The Crucifixion
c. 1340
Tempera on panel, 31,8 x 37,5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The poet Petrarch called Venice “a world apart.” Protected by a bewildering network of canals, the city naturally turned to the sea and, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, commanded an extensive empire in the eastern Mediterranean. When Venetian commercial interests diverted the Fourth Crusade from the Holy Land to loot the riches of Byzantium instead, many Greek artists were forced to find work in Italy.

That the city remained tied to its Byzantine traditions is evident in the work of Paolo Veneziano, the first Venetian artist we know by name. If he was aware of the more naturalistic styles of his contemporaries in other parts of Italy, he chose not to emulate them. This painting’s small size and arched shape suggest that it might have originally crowned a larger panel in a multipart altarpiece. Paolo’s style is essentially Byzantine, with ethereal figures and flat gold backgrounds. But his form — the altarpiece — is a Western one.

Paolo’s Coronation of the Virgin also is part of the Gallery’s collection. The subject of the Coronation was not painted by Byzantine artists and seems to have originated near Paris in the twelfth century. This may be the first such scene painted in Venice. Its strong colors and brittle figures seem almost abstract, a sense increased by the gold striations of the drapery: even without Byzantine models to follow, Paolo’s painting has a strong Byzantine character.

Resurrection 1463-65 Mural in fresco and tempera, 225 x 200 cm Pinacoteca Comunale, Sansepolcro

Resurrection
1463-65
Mural in fresco and tempera, 225 x 200 cm
Pinacoteca Comunale, Sansepolcro

This is one of Piero’s greatest masterpieces, painted for the Town Hall of his native city and moved from an adjoining room to its present position in the early sixteenth century; the ‘di sotto in sù’ viewpoint of the enframing columns suggests that it was originally painted rather high on the wall. This exemplifies Piero’s ability to use archaic iconographic elements, belonging to the repertory of popular sacred images, yet placing them in an entirely new cultural and stylistic context.

Within a framework, formed at the sides by two fake marble columns, the composition is divided into two separate perspective zones. The lower area, where the artist has placed the sleeping guards, has a very low vanishing point. Alberti, in his theoretical writings, suggests that the vanishing point should be at the same level as the figures’ eyes. By placing it on a lower level, Piero foreshortens his figures, thus making them more imposing in their monumental solidity. Above the figures of the sleeping sentries, Piero has placed the watchful Christ, no longer seen from below, but perfectly frontally. The resurrected Christ, portrayed with solid peasant features, is nonetheless a perfect representative of Piero’s human ideal: concrete, restrained and hieratic as well. The splendid landscape also belongs to the repertory of popular sacred images: Piero has symbolically depicted it as half still immersed in the bareness of winter, and half already brought back to life – resurrected – by springtime.

Crash

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