Benedetto da Maiano
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This large (life-sized) crucifix was made for a hospital, the Ospedale di Santa Fina in San Gimignano, possibly for the men's infirmary, as inventories seem to confirm its longtime placement there. In such hospitals and at home, the sick and dying performed devotions using crucifixes, both small hand-held ones and larger mounted examples, contemplating Christ's suffering and praying for salvation. When this crucifix was rediscovered in a nearby convent in the twentieth century, it had been covered with dark paint, in imitation of bronze. The work was cleaned, revealing the original polychromy, and after restoration (particularly extensive in the heavily damaged loincloth), it was moved to its current location, the Museo Civico in San Gimignano. The body and legs of the figure are made from one piece of wood (probably linden), hollowed from the back to avoid cracking, with additional pieces added for the projecting head, feet, and arms (attached with dovetail joints). The loincloth is a piece of fabric dipped in gesso and wrapped around the hips. The very delicate polychromy, which includes individual hairs painted on the shoulders, in the armpits, and above the loincloth, is relatively well preserved. The work has been assigned on the basis of style to Benedetto da Maiano in c. 1490. Benedetto was active in San Gimignano in these years and was particularly known for his beautiful wooden crucifixes, in addition to his works in marble and other media. The lyrical loveliness of the face and body are typical of his works. Holes in the head indicate that the figure probably had a halo and certainly had a crown of thorns, both now lost. Two holes in the would in the side may indicate that an ex voto was attached to the wound. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.