Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes

Active in central Italy, c. 1260–75

Osvald Sirén (O. Sirén, Toskanische Maler im xiii. Jahrhundert, Berlin 1922, p. 223) was the first to coin for the artist the name “Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes”. On the strength of the fact that he worked chiefly in Franciscan churches, most importantly in the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, Miklós Boskovits merged his corpus of works with those of the “Master of the Crucifix of Santa Maria del Borgo” and the “Master of the Blue Crucifixes” (Sul “Maestro di Crocifissi francescani”, in Duecento. Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico, 15 April – 16 July 2000, ed. M. Medica, S. Tumidei, Bologna 2000, p. 186). The painter’s work reveals the strong influence of Giunta Pisano, with whose large cross – commissioned for the basilica in Assisi by Franciscan Vicar General Brother Elias in 1236 and sadly now lost (Medica 2019, p. 36) – he may have been familiar. It is thought that it was precisely Giunta’s cross that contributed to the dissemination in Italy around the middle of the 13th century of the iconography known as Christus patiens, Christ suffering with his eyes shut, which supplanted the hitherto ubiquitous Christus triumphans, Christ triumphant over death (E. Zappasodi, La croce dipinta in Umbria al tempo di Giunta e di Giotto, tra eleganze dolorose e coinvolgimento emotivo, in Francesco e la croce dipinta, exhibition catalogue, Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, 30 October 2016 – 29 January 2017, ed. M. Pierini, Milan 2016, p. 69).

Thus the Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes embarked on his career in Assisi, as we can tell from his first two “opisthograph” (i.e. painted on both sides) processional crucifixes now in the Museo del Tesoro in Assisi (inv. no. 3) and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne (inv. no. 873) (Tartuferi 2015a, p. 152) respectively. The turning point in the style of the painter, who initially followed his own Umbrian beginnings, came with his move to the Umbria-Romagna region in the 1260s and ‘70s, when he began to be influenced by two other crosses painted by Giunta, the San Ranierino Crucifix (Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa, inv. no. 2325) and the crucifix in the Basilica di San Domenico in Bologna. This more mature phase in his career is associated with three crosses from the church of San Francesco in Bologna (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, inv. no. 10038; a cross from the Muzzarelli Chapel and another from the library in the convent of San Francesco) and with the Faenza cross, the latter first attributed to the Master by Sandberg Vavalà (1929, p. 841-844). Ennio Lunghi (Oltre l’Appennino, in Da Giotto a Gentile. Pittura e scultura a Fabriano fra Due e Trecento, exhibition catalogue, Fabriano, Pinacoteca Civica, 26 July – 30 November 2014, ed. V. Sgarbi, Florence 2014, pp. 94-96) suggested that the anonymous artist should be identified as Guido di Pietro da Gubbio, who is recorded in Bologna in 1268–71, but Zappasodi rejected the hypothesis on the grounds that Lunghi’s arguments were less than solid (E. Zappasodi, La croce dipinta…op. cit., p. 97, n. 28). The most recent hypothesis concerning the artist was put forward by Lollini, who suggested that the “Master” may in fact have been a collective entity, in other words not a single individual but an artists’ workshop. (Lollini 2023, p.53)

Artworks in Pinacoteca
  • Marco Palmezzano
    St. Jerome
  • Marco Palmezzano
    St. Augustine
  • Marco Palmezzano
    Tobias and the Angel
  • Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. John the Evangelist, the Blessed Jacopo Filippo Bertoni and Four Angels
  • Marco Palmezzano
    Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. Michael the Archangel and St. James the Less, in the lunette God the Father with Seraphim
  • Crucifixion and Ascension of St. John the Evangelist
  • Marco Palmezzano
    A Sainted Bishop
  • Marco Palmezzano
    Christ Carrying the Cross
  • Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes
    Painted cross (Christus patiens)
  • Two wedding chests
  • Girolamo Negri known as Il Boccia
    Christ and the Samaritan Woman
  • Giacomo Bertucci, known as Jacopone da Faenza
    The Deposition from the Cross
  • Girolamo Negri known as Il Boccia
    The Holy Family with the Young St. John the Baptist and an Angel
  • Elisabetta Sirani
    St. Joseph with the Christ Child
  • Elisabetta Sirani
    Madonna of the Pear
  • Giovanni di Balduccio
    The Prophet Baruch
  • Alfonso Lombardi
    Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist
  • Giovanni da Rimini
    Madonna and Child with St. Francis, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Augustine (?), St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Clare
  • Alfonso Lombardi
    St. Jerome at Prayer
  • Ferraù Fenzoni
    Christ on the Way to Calvary
  • Ferraù Fenzoni
    The Deposition of Christ in the Tomb
  • Ferraù Fenzoni
    Christ at the Pool of Bethesda
  • Marco Marchetti known as Marco da Faenza
    Adoration of the Shepherds
  • Marco Marchetti known as Marco da Faenza
    Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee
  • Rutilio Manetti
    The Holy Family
  • Fra’ Damiano Zambelli da Bergamo
    Table top owned by Fra’ Sabba da Castiglione
  • Catarino da Venezia
    Madonna of Humility
  • Biagio Manzoni
    The Martyrdom of St. Eutropius
  • Biagio di Antonio Tucci
    Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. Magloire (?), St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist and St. Jerome
  • Biagio di Antonio Tucci
    Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony of Padua
  • Biagio di Antonio Tucci
    Madonna and Child with the Young St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony of Padua as a Young Man
  • Benedetto da Maiano
    The Young St. John the Baptist
  • The Dead Christ Supported by Three Angels
  • Madonna and Child with St. Martin, St. Clare, St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua
  • Biagio di Antonio Tucci
    ‘Christus Patiens’ (Christ Suffering) between Two Angels
  • Biagio di Antonio Tucci
    Annunciation
  • Ridolfo del Ghirladaio
    Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine with St. Augustine (?), the Young St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist