Old Master Paintings
This fresco was part of a monumental Crucifixion scene on the rear wall of the refectory in the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Giustina, Padua; extensive fragments of the work are still in situ. The Budapest fragment shows the mourning relatives and followers of Jesus: the Virgin Mary, pale and swooning in grief, is surrounded and supported on her left by Saint John the Evangelist, and on her right by Mary Magdalene and two holy women. Above them, in the original scene, was Christ crucified between the two thieves, with a view of a Renaissance city and a rocky landscape stretching into the distance. In the left background of the Budapest fragment, we can still see the base of the cross of the Good Thief, and part of the rope that bound his feet; on the right, Roman soldiers are returning to the city from the execution ground.
“Master Angelo” – identified as Angelo Zoppo (his Italian nickname zoppo means “the lame”) – was commissioned to produce this fresco on 3 December 1489. Zoppo was a follower of the pioneering North Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. He superficially imitated Mantegna’s precisely executed solid, statuesque forms, his oddly shaped, slanting rocks, his softly textured foliage, and his anguished mourners with distorted faces. Zoppo’s painterly skills were more modest, however, so his figures seem slightly cumbersome, and the tears streaming down the rigid, mask-like faces are no substitute for expressions that more sensuously evoke emotion.
©Dóra Sallay, 2020
This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.