Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10

The Dead Christ (on the Cross)

Crucifix
ca.1250 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This striking figure would have been the most prominent religious image within the church, either hanging above the altar or placed above the central screen. Similar figures were commonly found in central Italy. They were usually made of poplar, which is a soft but strongly grained wood. It cannot be carved in fine detail but responds well to bold treatment.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Figure
  • Cross
Materials and Techniques
Polychromed wood (poplar)
Brief Description
Crucifix and figure, polychromed wood, Dead Christ, North Italian (possibly Tuscan), mid 13th century
Physical Description
Christ is bearded with hair falling on to his shoulders, with His head, crowned with twisted rope, inclined to the right. He is clad in a knee-length perizonium which folds over at the hips, His side, hands and feet are pierced. The body swings gently to the right, with the legs and feet side by side. The figure is hollowed out at the back. The right hand of Christ was missing and a replacement was carved in the Museum.
Dimensions
  • Figure and cross height: 261.5cm
  • Width: 191cm
  • Depth: 50.5cm
  • Weight: 54kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries 2006.
Gallery Label
  • THE DEAD CHRIST ON THE CROSS Polychromed wood ITALIAN (TUSCAN?); mid 13th century Anonymous loan(1985)
  • THE DEAD CHRIST ON THE CROSS Polychromed wood ITALIAN (Tuscany?); about 1250 Purchased with the aid of contributions from the WL Hildburgh Bequest and the Associates of the V&A A.2-1986(December 1995)
  • THE DEAD CHRIST ON THE CROSS Polychromed poplar ITALIAN (Tuscany?); about 1250 Purchased with the aid of contributions from the W.L. Hildburgh Bequest and the Associates of the V&A A.2-1986 Before the figure's acquisition by the Museum, its right hand had been broken off and was missing. For the sake of completeness a new right hand (based on the left) has been carved, but its colouring has been left unfinished to show clearly the extent of the restoration.(February 1997)
Credit line
Purchased with the aid of contributions from the Bequest of Dr W.L. Hildburgh F.S.A and the Associates of the V&A
Object history
Provenance: Pisa Collection, Milan until 1937; Mario Bellini, Florence until 1952; Thomas Hyland Collection, Princeton, NJ, USA, on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum from 21/8/1985. Acquired by the V&A in 1986 through Sotheby's, New York, for £60,263.



Historical significance: The figure belongs to the Christus patiens type of crucifix, showing the dead Christ at peace - just after death with His eyes closed and His stomach sagging forward. There is a similar North Italian Crucifix of unknown provenance in the Detroit Institute of Arts, but there Christ's feet are crossed. The crucifix shows stylistic similarities to the Christ of the Deposition group at Volterra (E. Carli, La Scultura Lignea Italiana, Milan 1960, pl.6) and to painted crucifixes of the second half of the 13th century, such as that attributed to Coppo di Marcovaldo in the Pinacoteca Civica, S Gimignano (J. White Art and Architecture in Italy 1250 to 1400, pl.45A). This touching and beautifully-rendered sculpture illustrates the deep spirituality inherent in the greatest works of the Italian duecento.
Historical context
This painted monumental image of the dead Christ would have dominated the church and been a focal point for spiritual devotion, probably hanging over the altar. Most surviving images of this kind remain in their original setting, and this is a rare example to be found in a Museum.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This striking figure would have been the most prominent religious image within the church, either hanging above the altar or placed above the central screen. Similar figures were commonly found in central Italy. They were usually made of poplar, which is a soft but strongly grained wood. It cannot be carved in fine detail but responds well to bold treatment.
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul Acquisitions of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Musuem, 1986-1991 Burlington Magazine, CXXXIII, Dec 1991, p. 877
  • Give and Take Exhibition Catalogue, Serpentine Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2001, ill. pp. 42 and 48
  • Catalogue de la Collection Pisa, Milan, 1937, no.779, pl. CXXIX
  • Sotheby's , New York, November 23 and 24, 1984, Lot 29
  • Kosinova, A The Hand of God, V&A Conservation Journal, 24, July 1997, pp.10-11
  • Darrah, Josephine A White and golden tin foil in applied relief decoration: 1240-1530 from Looking Through Paintings ed. E. Hermens, Leeds Kunsthistorisch Jaarbuck, XI, 1998, pp.52-3, figs.1-2, pls 1-2
Collection
Accession Number
A.2&:2-1986

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record createdMay 16, 2000
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