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Basilica of Saint Dominic

Cimabue’s Cross


A brief description.

“The Gothic basilica San Domenico (Saint Dominic) in Arezzo, founded in 1275 and finished at the beginning of the 14th century, dominates the piazza S. Domenico. There is a Romanesque portal on the characteristic façade and the pronaos (entrance) was redone in this century.
The interior has one nave and a trussed roof and is decorated with 14th and 15th century frescoes by Aretine and Sienese artists.
The painted Crucifix of the main altar is one of the most antique and celebrated paintings in Arezzo by Cimabue (circa 1265).

Cenni Cimabue was baptized ca. 1240 di Giuseppe or popularly, Cenni di Pepo. If someone criticized his work, he would destroy the piece regardless of its value or excellence. So they nicknamed him ‘Bullhead’ – Cimabue -, often mistaken for a surname.” (A. H. Serafini in The Coros Chronicle, 327, February 2003, p. 6.)
Notwithstanding its noteworthy dimensions, 336 x 267 cm., there are no traceable references to it prior to 1838, when it was cited in a guide of the city by N. O. Brizi.
At that time, the cross was located over one of the entrance doors to the church and it must already have been dirty and illegible as photographs from the beginning of the 1900s show.
Not until 1917 was the cross restored by Domenico Fiscali, who was very active in the Aretine region. The restoration, however, left several problems unresolved, because the panel presented over-paintings and missing colour.

On this occasion the cross was moved to the main chapel, most likely its original location, and subsequently the illustrious art historian Pietro Toesca recognized Cimabue's brushwork, finding it "similar in every detail, even in the expression reached in forced forms" to the celebrated Crucifix in Santa Croce in Firenze.

This crucifix was severely damaged in the Florentine flood of November 1966.
                             San Marino 1967, Mi 902, Sc 676. >>>>>


The work corresponded to the beginning of Cimabue’s stylistic course. For example, the technique of using gilded highlights of gem-like production in working the loincloth and the drapery goes back to Byzantine and medieval motifs as does the delineated and blackened chiaroscuro; the type of halo with" raised" vegetable motifs was widespread between 1260 and 1280.

The configuration of the cross, with the two sorrowful half figures on the panels at the extremities of the cross arms, the decorative motif of simulated fabric on the large backboard to the side of Christ, the elegant rhythm that involves the entire figure, the slender proportions of the body and the definition of the anatomy that divides the limbs as if they were pieces of armour refer us to the beginning of Cimabue’s work; in particular to the teaching of Giunta Pisano, the initiator of the suffering Christ iconography.




 7th Centenary of the death of Cimabue   


 Christ on the Cimabue’s Crucifixion,




      <<<<   Italy 2002, Mi 2854, Sc 2500.


                                                      Italy 2002. Postmark Arezzo 22.06.2002.





7th Centenary of the death of  Cimabue (1302).

Vatican City 2002, Mi 1417-1420, Sc 1228-1231.




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