UNKNOWN MASTER, Italian
(active 1130s)

Crucifix

1138
Tempera on wood, 300 x 210 cm
Cathedral, Sarzana

In addition to antependia and altar retables, painted crucifixes, painted and cut out in the shape of the cross ("croce dipinta"), were among the earliest and most characteristic genres of Italian panel painting. The oldest example is a work of the Tuscan school: the crucifix in Sarzana Cathedral (Liguria), identified and dated by an inscription as a creation of Master Guillielmus. Located below the narrow cross title, the inscription is written in Latin hexameters, suggesting that Guillielmus was a clergyman and himself authored these learned verses.

The Sarzana crucifix avoids the drastic effects of a depiction of Christ's torment on the cross. Instead, the figure appears in all his slender dignity, with open eyes, not like a martyred body.