Santa Croce Crucifix

Santa Croce Crucifix
Santa Croce Crucifix

The evolution suffered by the Gothic forms to develop a classicist aesthetic framed in the Renaissance was dominated in Italy by a trend called Trecento. At this time, the rigid forms of the Gothic style are gradually abandoned in favor of more realistic and natural forms such as those that will later develop in the Renaissance. According to one of the most outstanding theoreticians of this stage, Giorgio Vasari, in the Italian Trecento two schools were differentiated that promoted different paths, on the one hand the Sienese school with an artist such as Fra Angélico at the head who developed a gallant art, with sinuous forms and elegant; on the other hand, the Florentine school –in which artists such as Masaccio or Cimabue stand out- more interested in technical perfection and advances in the field of perspective.


The work we are analyzing here belongs to that second school and is about the crucified Jesus Christ of Cimabue, also known as Crucifix of Santa Croce de Cimabue because it is located in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. Cimabue, whose real name was Cenni di Pepo (1240 – 1302), is one of the leading artists of the Florentine school. The truth is that there are not many facts that we know about his life and most of them are confusing; According to Vasari, his masters must have been Byzantine and judging by the number of commissions he received,he must have been considered one of the best artists of his time.

In Santa Croce it was not the first time that Cimabue painted a crucifix, perhaps much more famous than this is the crucifix that he had painted ten years earlier for the church of Arezzo. In reality, the compositional scheme has not changed that much, although certain advances in its composition do give us an idea of ​​a more mature and developed style. The Santa Croce crucifix must have been painted between 1275 and 1285, it is a large piece made in oil on wood that is almost four meters high and more than four and thirty meters wide. width.

The posture of Jesus Christ with a great torsion of the body as well as the composition with the portraits of Mary and Saint John, are still very similar to the one that the artist had already painted in Arezzo. However, the naturalism of the work is already greater and the forms are not so rigid, in addition the color is much more realistic playing with the light and the volumes of the piece.

Unfortunately Cimabue's work was seriously damaged in the floods in the city of Florence that took place in 1966. The water rose more than five meters high and caused serious damage to both the church and the works there they met. The crucifix lost almost sixty percent of its paint, especially in the figure of Jesus Christ, and had to undergo a major restoration in which the areas lost due to water were repainted.

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