Giovanni di Balduccio
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As early as 1333 this painted wood crucifix attributed to Giovanni Balduccio hung in the Baptistry in Florence where it was venerated as a miraculous image. The life-size sculpture was said to be made from the sacred elm tree in the Piazza San Giovanni that had touched the body of St. Zenobius. As is typical of crucifixes of the period, Jesus hangs low on the cross, his arms painfully stretched, and his ribs protruding over a concave abdomen. Christ's suffering is shown by an agonized expression -- contracted brow, half-open eyes and mouth -- yet his divinity is still suggested by smooth, supple skin, a carved mane of leonine hair (originally fitted with a crown of thorns), and a gilded loincloth. The vibrant red blood on his forehead, hands, side, and feet were painted with a bright cinnabar red to call attention to his wounds. Some areas were built up in gesso before painting, making the blood palpable, for instance, on Christ's right rib cage where blood pools down and underneath the loincloth. Hinges were added to the shoulders -- and painted with underarm hair -- so that the sculpture could be detached from the cross and used in ceremonial re-enactments of Christ's Crucifixion, Entombment and Resurrection. Later reports of Christ miraculously bleeding prompted the Bianchi, a popular lay devotional movement, to use this crucifix in their processions in 1399. These people made of lay devotees travelled city to city dressed in white robes, singing songs and performing penitential acts in an attempt to escape God's wrath (in the form of the plague). Today the crucifix is displayed in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.