BUFFALMACCO, Bounamico
(active 1315-1336)

Triumph of Death

1335-40
Fresco
Camposanto, Pisa

The cemetery building, the Camposanto, near the cathedral in Pisa, as appears today, was built in the fourteenth century. The large, unarticulated wall surfaces on the inner sides were predestined for fresco decoration, and over the course of many decades - beginning around 1330-35 - one of the greatest fresco cycles of the Trecento was created here. It was expanded in the fifteenth century by adding numerous biblical scenes executed by Benozzo Gozzoli. All in all, painters from different generations and varying origins worked in the Camposanto, including Francesco Traini from Pisa, Buonamico Buffalmaco, Stefano Fiorentino, Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea da Firenze, all Florentine, Antonio Veneziano from Venice, Spinello Aretino, a native of Arezzo, and Piero di Puccio from Orvieto.

The fresco ensemble was partly destroyed, and in parts severely damaged, during the bombing of the city in 1944, and the devastating fire that ensued in the Camposanto. In 1948 work was begun on detaching what remained of the paintings from the walls and transferring the remnants to Eternit panels. In the course of this work the underdrawings (the sinopias) were also secured.

The Triumph of Death on the south wall and the immediately adjoining wall paintings, the Last Judgment with Hell and the Life of the Anchorites (or Thebaid) are attributed to Buffalmaco. Formerly, for a long time, these frescoes were attributed to Francesco Traini and dated after the year of the Black Death, that is after 1348.

The theme of these frescoes, commissioned by Simone Saltarelli, archbishop of Pisa between 1323 and 1342, are of markedly instructional character. Pastoral subjects, exhortative intent, and emphatic presentation go hand in hand to an extent found in no other ensemble of pictures from the Trecento.




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