DIANA, Benedetto
(b. ca. 1460, Venezia, d. 1525, Venezia)

Miracle of the Relic of the Holy Cross

Tempera on canvas, 365 x 147 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

The Confraternity of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice called upon the most respected Venetian painters of the period, including Pietro Perugino, Vittore Carpaccio, Gentile Bellini, Giovanni Mansueti, Lazzaro Bastiani and Benedetto Diana to paint nine canvases for the Great Hall of their headquarters showing the Miracles of the Holy Cross, the story of the miracles performed by the fragment of wood from the Cross on which Jesus was crucified. This fragment had been donated to the brotherhood in 1369 by Philip de Mezieres, Chancellor of the Kingdom of Cyprus and Jerusalem, and had soon become an object of great veneration and the symbol of the Scuola, one of the most important and wealthy Venetian confraternities.

The canvas painted by Perugino has been lost, but the eight surviving paintings executed between 1496 and 1501, contain depictions of some of the most famous parts of Venice. Since the imposing series of pictures (known as 'teleri') are all in the Accademia now it is easy to compare them.

Having passed from the influence of Bastiani and Antonello da Messina to a meditation on the works of Gentile Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio, Benedetto Diana was able, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, to absorb the influences of the most modern of painters working in Venice, of Lotto and Giorgione in particular. He showed a constant, natural predisposition for large-scale monumental compositions however and for the precise spacial geometry of late fifteenth century tradition. This inclination is also clearly displayed in the 'telero' painted for the Hostel Chamber of the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista. According to the 'Descrizione' of the Scuola published in 1787, the painting tells the story of how the four-year-old son of Alvise Finetti, 'scrivan alla Camera degli imprestidi' recovered after sustaining mortal injuries in a fall from the loft of his house. Especially evocative is the description of the interior courtyard of a fifteenth century Venetian palace reminiscent in its freely atmospheric style of Carpaccio.

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