Tuscany : Crucifixion, Cimabue
One of the founding fathers of the Italian Renaissance, Cimabue (c. 1240-1302), contributed a plethora of valuable masterpieces, and established the artistic tone of the thirteenth century. A native Florentine, Cimabue thrived in a city that lived and breathed the spirit of the Renaissance. This wealthy city was witness to the greatest artistic revolution in history. Cimabue’s Crucifixion served as both a reminder of the normality of human suffering, as well as a mystical symbol in which individuals had the opportunity to help determine their own fate.
The crucifix appeals to the Franciscan dedication to poverty and Christ’s suffering at the cross. Cimabue was urged by the Franciscans to depict Christ in a sympathetic light. The sheer loincloth allowed the majority of Christ’s flesh to be presented to the viewer, which encouraged Cimabue’s play with the anatomical form of man
In the years to come, Italy, and particularly Florence, would experience devastation. Drought, famine, as well as the Black Death swept across Europe during the fourteenth century. Florentines had little hope and seemed to be surrounded by suffering. Churches and religion became institutions of solace. The imagery of a suffering Christ allowed individuals to identify with Christ, and recognize that, perhaps, suffering was simply an inevitable part of life.
Another argument was that the Christus patiens related to the trend of mysticism. The image of Christ on a crucifix could be seen as an example of superior humanity, something that individuals could aspire to be. You could prove your worth by giving yourself into your religion completely, and demonstrating you’re complete faith. If one was successful with demonstrating their devotion, they were more likely to be offered protection. This was a way in which Florentines and other Italians could try to take their fate into their own hands. The fourteenth century proved to be a difficult, random, and terrifying time period. If people thought they could establish their own personal security by being faithful, they may just survive the difficult times.