Paolo da Visso (active 1431-1482)

The Crucifixion
mid-15th century
Italy, Le Marche
tempera and gold on panel
42 x 30.2 x 3 cm

This intimate panel painting of the Crucifixion, with its unusual iconography, has been at the centre of scholarly debate since its first appearance in an early 20th century publication. It has since been attributed to Paolo da Visso, a 15th century painter from the Central Italian region of Le Marche.

A tool for contemplation, the iconography of this panel adds complexity to the otherwise straightforward scene, which depicts the final moment before the death of Christ. Kneeling and embracing the foot of the Cross is Saint Francis of Assisi dressed in the traditional Franciscan brown habit fastened with a white rope, looking towards Christ. Although seemingly out of place, the presence of Francis at the foot of the cross is in fact not unusual in Italian art of this period, which often merges the story of the Saint’s life with the story of Christ’s passion in order to emphasise his direct spiritual authority. The viewers of this moment are invited to witness this union, which was particularly celebrated in Dominican and Franciscan mysticism in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Sterbini Collection, Rome
Private collection, Switzerland

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages