Benedetto da Maiano
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According to tradition (as cited in an inscription from the early seventeenth century), this small crucifix belonged to Girolamo Savonarola, the fiery preacher and prophet who briefly ruled Florence before he was executed as a heretic. The likely date of the sculpture fits this chronology, and so the tradition may well be accurate, as "relics" of Savonarola were preserved by the friars of San Marco, who remained loyal to his memory. (The crucifix is still housed in the Museo di San Marco in Florence, the building in which he lived.) Savonarola preached against useless showy expenditure, including works of art and famously held bonfires of the vanities, in which paintings and sculptures were destroyed, along with make-up, wigs, jewelry and other luxury objects. Savonarola also, however, used art as a part of the dramatic events he staged -- having sculptures carried in procession, for example, and venerated in other ways. He often called upon the faithful in his sermons and writings to contemplate Jesus' suffering on the cross, and is portrayed with just such a small crucifix, for example in a woodcut illustrating his 1496 "Semplicita della vita christiana." This crucifix does show Christ's suffering through the hanging head and the delicately painted wounds across Christ's body, but it is hardly an image of agonizing suffering. Instead, a sweet loveliness in both form and colouring (including the violet loincloth, made out of a piece of fabric dipped in gesso and painted with precious azzurite, lapis lazuli, and red lake, mixed with lead white). Savonarola also preached about the beauty of Christ's shining body. This crucifix, carved out of a single piece of solid wood (probably pear) except for the arms, has been attributed on the basis of style to Benedetto da Maiano. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.