Stefano da Putignano
Trinity , Christ , Jesus , God , Holy Spirit , Crucifix
Depictions of God the Father in religious sculpture are not as common as those of Jesus, God incarnate, perhaps because of the proscription in the Bible against making graven images, especially of the immaterial and therefore unknowable God the Father. The Trinity -- the Christian mystery of God being both one and three -- is understood to be beyond human comprehension, and therefore there were risks to attempting to depict it in concrete terms, here literally carved in stone. The subject was common in Venetian art in the quattrocento and therefore throughout the Adriatic coast, where there was a great deal of travel and trade. Here, God the Father wears heavy robes in deep colours and has long dark hair styled into twists. With two hands, God holds a comparitively diminutive Christ on the Cross between his knees. (This is supposed to be an image of Christ, rather than an image of a carved image, but given the difference in scale and the prevalence of polychrome crucifixes in the area at the time, surely some viewers thought of this as an image of God holding out a crucifix to them, rather than one of God supporting Jesus.) A dove, representative of the Holy Spirit, flies in front of God's beard towards Christ below.This unusual motif is replicated by the sculptor Aurelio Persio in his Trinity at the Chiesa Matrice in Galati Mamertino. A golden triangle that floats behind God's head, the Trinitarian halo, emphasizing the unity of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This sculpture is located in a niche in the right side of the church's nave but was originally commissioned for a chapel on the counterfacade of the church, where it remained until 1962. The original Chapel of the Trinity was founded in 1506 by the Archpriest Vito de Paola. The sculpture was made later, finished in 1520 (date inscribed on the base). The frontal blocky forms, and even the forms of specific details evoke Stefano's earlier work of 1500-1510, and so perhaps the artist chose a less realistic, more iconic style as appropriate to his eternal, exalted subject, which is here absolutely frontal and symmetrical, even in the folds of fabric, except, appropriately, for Jesus, whose humanity is expressed in head falling to one side and the asymmetrically wrapped loincloth. Documents attest to other images of the crucified Christ by Stefano -- this sculpture, his only surviving image of Christ on the cross, helps us imagine these lost works. The original polychromy is well-preserved. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.