This life-size painted wood crucifix was commissioned by Fra Girolamo Savonarola in 1496 for the church of San Marco in Florence and was seen later by Vasari above the choir in that church. (It is now in the Museo di San Marco.) Savonarola was a fiery Dominican preacher whose call for penitence and warnings about divine punishment were so powerful that he briefly led the government of Florence, before being executed for heresy. The artist, Baccio da Montelupo, seems to have been a follower of Savonarola. While Savonarola famously demanded that profane works of art be destroyed in the great bonfires of the vanities, he also used religious art to incite devotion. The pathos of the gaping wounds, great streams of painted blood, open mouth, and closed eyes emphasize Christ's sacrifice in a way that parallels many of Savonarola's writings and sermons. The preacher, however, described Christ's body as delicate -- hardly the muscular athlete shown here. This contrast emphasizes the complexity of relating the preacher's words to works of art, even ones he commissioned. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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