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Fra Bartolommeo (1472 - 1517)



January 24, 2002
New York, NY, US

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oil on panel, the verso with its original painted decoration This painting was first recognized as an autograph work by Fra' Bartolommeo by Lionello Venturi, who published it as such in 1927 (see Literature below). He further noted the similarity between this panel and a small painting of the same subject, painted as a trompe l'oeil leaning against a book in the foreground of Fra' Bartolommeo's altarpiece of The Vision of Saint Bernard in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (inv. 1890 no. 8455; S. Padovani, in L'Età di Savonarola. Fra' Bartolomeo e la Scuola di San Marco, exhibition catalogue, Florence, Palazzo Pitti & Museo di San Marco, April 25-July 28, 1996, cat. no. 18, illus. p. 90) (fig. 1). The Vision of Saint Bernard was commissioned on November 18, 1504, and finished in 1507, which would propose a dating of circa 1504-5 for this little Crucifixion. Although the minutiae of such a painting are difficult to see in any great detail, it is clear that the overall composition is almost identical to the present panel: the figures of Christ on the Cross and St. John the Evangelist are literal repetitions, whilst the pose of the Virgin is marginally different. The principal differences are the format of each painting and, by extension, their different functions. The curved top of the ``painting within a painting'' and the manner in which it is framed as an independent object, indicates that it would not have been paired with any other panel. Fischer (see Literature below) considered the painting to be a tabernacle, encasing a host, but Fahy (see Literature below) has observed that such small, independent paintings were customarily used as paxes: they would have had a handle affixed to the reverse, would have been placed in front of the tabernacle that held the host on the altar, and would have been kissed reverently by the priests and the faithful during mass. The function of this little panel is likely to have been somewha


Probably one of two paintings recorded in an inventory of the artist's possessions, drawn up by Bartolomeo Cavalcanti in 1516 Sir Anthony Stirling, London, end of the 19th Century(?) with Nicholson, London, circa 1927 Bareiss collection, Monaco Sale:

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