HUMBERT DE SUPERVILLE, David Pierre Giottino
(b. 1770, Den Haag, d. 1849, Leiden)

The Santa Croce Altarpiece

Drawing (Vat. Lat. 9847, ff. 91v-92r)
Biblioteca Apostolica, Vatican

This drawing shows the altarpiece painted by Ugolino di Nerio, possibly between 1325 and 1328, for the high altar of Santa Croce, Florence. Originally, this massive altarpiece had at least thirty-five sections in all. These panels recall Duccio's sense of style and organization, as Ugolino was still working with Byzantine line and colour. The altar was dismantled shortly after 1566 and moved to the church's dormitory. By the 1830s, most of its panel had been sold. Now the surviving panels are scattered among museums and private collections.

It is thought that the drawing is in essence accurate. The draughtsman made some obvious adjustments, and the proportions of the figures relative to the frame are inaccurate. Opinions are divided as to whether the drawing was made before or after the altarpiece was cut up, and to what extent the draughtsman was copying what he actually saw.