Sunday, May 16, 2010

Byzantine Master of the Crucifix of Pisa

The Byzantine Master of the Crucifix of Pisa was an anonymous Italian painter active in Pisa in the first half of the thirteenth century. His most important painting is a Crucifixion painted on wood panel, dating to sometime around 1230 and currently in the Museo nazionale di San Matteo. The painting is significant in the history of Italian painting for its iconography of the patient, suffering Christ on the cross; although then new, it quickly replaced the older style, depicting Christ triuphant and free from pain, with open eyes and a regal bearing free from sorrow.

The painting contains all the canonical elements of this type of representation, already known from Byzantine art and miniatuer painting. Christ's head falls to the left; the eyes are closed, and a small trail of blood escapes from one wound. The four arms of the cross are decorated with smaller scenes, as is traditional:

  • a painting of Christ in triumph with angels at the head
  • depictions of spectators at the arms
  • the suppedaneo at the feet

Flanking the body of Christ are other representations of various scenes from the Passion. The body itself is rigid, with little suggestion of movement or life; this is in contrast to the slightly later depictions of the same scene by Giunta Pisano and Cimabue, both of which show the body bending under its own weight.

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