GOZZOLI, Benozzo
(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)

St Francis in Glory and Saints

Vault fresco
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

In the apsidal chapel's umbrella vault, with angels on either side, St Francis is enthroned in glory with angels on either side. In the five spandrels, against a star-studded heaven with cirrus clouds, he is surrounded by the most important saints of the Franciscan order. During previous restoration work the names of the saints were repainted incorrectly: S(ANCTUA) A(N)TO(NIUS), St Anthony of Padua; S(AN)C(T)A CATARINA [sic], St Clare of Assisi; S(ANCTUS)BERNAR(INUS), St Bernadine of Siena; S(ANCTA) ROSA VIT(ERBENSI)S [sic], St Catherine of Siena; S(ANCTUS L)UDOVICU(S) R(E)X, St Louis of France.

The architectural structure of the polygonal apse on a pentagonal plan; covered by a ribbed umbrella vault, obliged Benozzo to make use of an extremely Gothic division of the cycle, which threatened to place limits on his expressiveness. And in fact, while the five Franciscan saints fit in nicely, one to each segment, with their backdrop of a starry sky and support of rose-coloured clouds, the solid St Francis seated in glory is almost squashed into the segment bordering on the underside of the arch, with a sculptural force that spills over into the blazing circle of seraphim, "cut" by the triangular field. The artist's secure grasp of the spatial layout is demonstrated by the foreshortening of the cross in the saint's hand.