MASTER of San Francesco Bardi
(active 1240-1270 in Florence)

Crucifix with scenes from Calvary

Panel, 247 x 200 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The mysterious author of this Crucifix (no. 434 in the Uffizi) is one of the most interesting personalities in 13th-century Florentine painting, although recent studies lead us to believe that he had some artistic training in Lucca, almost certainly at the workshop of Bonaventura Berlinghieri.

This Cross follows the Byzantine iconographic formula for the 'Christus patiens'. There is a Byzantine influence also in the style, which is, however, basically Western in its dramatic vigour. Referred by some critics to the Florentine school, it is perhaps a work by the painter of the panel with St Francis and scenes of his life in the church of Santa Croce at Florence (Cappella Bardi). This master interprets with a new, passionate vigour the schemes given by the Lucchese Bonaventura Berlinguieri in his St Francis at Pescia.

In this panel the artist concentrated on the dramatic moment of the agonies of Christ, giving life to an extraordinary expressive force and great emotional impact. Nevertheless, the most interesting innovations concern the unusually numerous scenes of the Passion of Christ - four on each side of the Cross. In them the anonymous master shows that he possessed a marked compositional capacity, enabling him to produce very crowded, bustling representations, animated by lively, gesticulating characters.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 9 minutes):
13th-century Organum