This relief, along with another in the collection (acc. no. 23.79.1), once formed part of a narrative that stretched across the back of an altar. Carved from single blocks of marble, the two compositions feature episodes from the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. In order to bring these distant events into the present, the sculptor employed clothing and character types familiar to fifteenth-century audiences. Here the crowned figure of Saint Helena clasps her hands in prayer as a workman excavates three crosses. The bearded man kneeling in prayer is Jude, who revealed their location. One of the three crosses would soon emerge as the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Mme de la P..., Paris (sale, Anderson Galleries, N.Y., March 17, 1923, lot 19)
The Important Art Collection of Madame de la P... of Paris, France. New York: Anderson Galleries, March 17, 1923. no. 19, pp. 22–23.
"Recent Accessions." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 18, no. 6 (July 1923). pp. 151–52, ill.