Painted crosses such as this one could have been displayed on an altar or carried in processions, when both sides would have been visible. The inclusion of Saints Jerome, Francis, and Bernardino—the pre-eminent Franciscan preacher in the fifteenth century—suggests that it was painted for the Franciscan confraternity of San Girolamo in Siena. Orioli joined this confraternity in 1481 and held a number of administrative positions in it.
There is no record of this remarkably well-preserved crucifix prior to 1902, when it belonged to the Florentine dealer Stefano Bardini. Painted on both sides, it could be carried in processions or set on an altar. As was customary, on the obverse Christ is still alive, with open eyes, while on the reverse he is dead, with closed eyes. The terminals on the obverse depict the Virgin (left), and Saints John the Evangelist (right), Jerome (top), and Francis (bottom). The terminals on the reverse depict the other three Evangelists—Luke (left), Mark (right), and Matthew (top)—and Saint Bernardino (bottom). A Sienese and promoter of the Franciscan Observant movement, Bernardino (1380–1444) was the most famous preacher of the fifteenth century.
Prior to 1982, the cross was attributed alternatively to Guidoccio Cozzarelli (1450–1516/17) or Giacomo Pacchiarotti (1474–1540); however, in 1982 Alessandro Angelini demonstrated that the body of works ascribed to Pacchiarotti was, instead, by an older artist who has now assumed a place of key importance for the history of Sienese painting in the second half of the fifteenth century. The confusion with Cozzarelli is explained by the fact that Orioli trained in the same workshop—that of Matteo di Giovanni. He was clearly something of a prodigy, since there is a payment to him for work at the Hospital of the Scala in 1474, when he was sixteen years old. His earliest works have been confused with those of Cozzarelli, but are invariably softer in their modeling and show a greater mastery of space and figural construction. In response to Angelini’s groundbreaking articles (published in successive issues of Prospettiva, nos. 29 and 30), Keith Christiansen (then curator of Italian painting at the Museum) changed the attribution of this crucifix. Since Orioli joined the Franciscan confraternity of San Girolamo in Siena in 1481 and remained a member until his death, and given the presence of the Franciscan saints Francis and Bernardino, Christiansen suggested that the crucifix was probably painted for the confraternity shortly after Orioli joined it in 1481.
[Keith Christiansen 2012]
Inscription: Inscribed (obverse and reverse): ·I·N·R·I·
[Stefano Bardini, Florence, by 1902–18; his sale, Christie's, London, May 30, 1902, no. 542, as Italian, fifteenth-century, for £35 to Fraser, ?bought in; his sale, American Art Association, New York, April 24, 1918, no. 250, as Florentine, fifteenth-century, for $100 to Brummer]; [T. Brummer, New York, 1918]; Michael Dreicer, New York (1918–d. 1921)
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 99, ill. (obverse), attributes it to an unknown Sienese painter of the late 15th century; relates it to a predella in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, then thought to be by Pacchiarotti (no. 421; now attributed to Orioli).
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 58, 288, 379, 393, 606, as by Cozzarelli.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, p. 57, pls. 82 (obverse), 83 (reverse), attribute it to Pacchiarotti and tentatively date it about 1490–95.
Mojmír S. Frinta. "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes." Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998, p. 223, classifies a punch mark appearing in this painting; attributes it to Orioli.
Gerardo de Simone inBeato Angelico: L'alba del Rinascimento. Ed. Alessandro Zuccari et al. Exh. cat., Musei Capitolini, Rome. Milan, 2009, p. 222, under no. 31, mentions it as by Pacchiarotti.
The original pedestal of the crucifix was removed by the Department of Paintings in 1935. [J. L. Allen]