The Crucifixion

Artist: Pietro Lorenzetti (Italian, active Siena 1320–44)

Date: 1340s

Medium: Tempera and gold leaf on wood

Dimensions: Overall 16 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. (41.9 x 31.8 cm); painted surface 14 1/8 x 10 1/8 in. (35.9 x 25.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift and Gwynne Andrews Fund, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.436


Pietro Lorenzetti was one of the great innovators of fourteenth-century Italian painting. In this work, he imbued the familiar biblical narrative with a new sense of pathos and dramatic intensity. He preceded Van Eyck in including such elements—the piercing of Christ’s side with a spear and breaking the legs of the thieves, the Virgin swooning into the arms of her companions, the animated discussion of the horsemen—that would ensure an emotional response from the viewer. A century later, Van Eyck added to these pictorial strategies the extraordinary naturalism of the landscape setting and distant views of mountains and rivers, replacing the gold ground of Italian painting and introducing a sense that the Crucifixion took place within the context of contemporary life.