(b. ca. 1370, Siena (?), d. ca. 1425, Firenze)

Cut-out Crucifix (detail)

Tempera on wood, 146 x 84 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Financial considerations often played a part in inducing a medieval client to buy a painted crucifix rather than a sculpture. Under the circumstances, it was important for the painter to give the appearence of maximum plasticity to his work, so that it should produce an effect as close as possible to that of a piece of sculpture. Early in the 15th century some Florentine masters enhanced the effect of plasticity by cutting around the body of the crucified Christ, and thus the painted figure, which was generally suspended from the ceiling, above the altar, rather than hung on a wall, was able to reveal its illusionistic effect in the spacious interior of the church.

In this picture, Lorenzo, one of the most important Italian exponents of the late International Gothic manner, painted a long, slim male body, with no abrupt break or disharmony disturbing the gently undulating rythm of the contours. In his modelling of the body the painter carefully avoided all naturalist hints. His Christ is no athletic hero like Giotto's or Masaccio's but an almost fragile figure who seems to be slumbering on the cross. The artist's precedent period of extreme gothicism had evidently subsided; and in this picture Lorenzo experimented with the subtle-toned, soft presentation which was to assume its final form in Masolino's pictures.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 12 minutes):
Gregorian chants