FERRARI, Gaudenzio
(b. ca. 1475, Valduggia, d. 1546, Milano)

Crucifixion of Christ

Cappella della Maddalena, San Cristoforo, Vercelli

The old Humilitati monastery of San Cristoforo in Vercelli was entrusted to the aristocratic family of the Corradi di Lignano in the fifteenth century. In the early sixteenth century Provost Nicolini Corradi had the old church torn down and a replacement built. Andrea Corradi's assumption of office as provost in July 1529 was accompanied by an elaborate campaign of decoration. The new church was decorated with a retable for the high altar and two fresco cycles in the transept, in the Cappella dell'Assunta and the Cappella della Maddalena, all by Gaudenzio Ferrari. The artist had returned to Vercelli in 1528 after a long period of activity in Varallo.

The first frescoes were in the Cappella della Maddalena, to the right of the chancel. Gaudenzio Ferrari painted the enormous Crucifixion of Christ on the end wall of the side aisle above the altar, in which the patron saint of the altar is prominently kneeling beneath the cross. On the adjacent side wall four additional scenes from the legend of Mary Magdalene are arranged in two rows around the central window. In the painting at top left Christ is preaching in the temple whereby Mary Magdalene is converted. The following fresco shows Mary Magdalene washing and anointing Christ's feet at a banquet in the house of Simon. The lower register shows the conversion of the reigning couple of Marseilles.

The division of the side wall frescoes into two registers is mirrored in the bipartite composition of the large vertical format fresco on the altar wall. In the Crucifixion of Christ the crucified tower high above the dense crowd of people below. The motifs of the top and bottom halves of the painting are closely related to the subject matter of the neighbouring frescoes at the same height on the side wall.