Artibus et Historiae no. 85 (XLIII)

2022, ISSN 0391-9064

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MARILYN ARONBERG LAVIN - Bellini’s Frick Saint Francis and the Source of the Absent Side Wound (pp. 51–87)

The question addressed here is the absence of a Side Wound in Giovanni Bellini’s representation of St Francis in the Frick Collection. Some time after his Stigmatization (1224) and before his death (1226) it is said that St Francis was told by God that all his sins had been absolved and that at death he would go, with no interference from the devil, directly to heaven. I present evidence that the Frick painting represents Bellini’s idea of Francis’s exaltation upon hearing this news. In a brief review of the history of Crucifixions I discovered a new, coherent facet of that iconography not previously recognized as a separate theme: Christ crucified with only the marks of the four nails and the post-mortem stab wound of Longinus lacking. This configuration, I propose, represents Christ during the six-hour period he was alive on the Cross and during which he spoke his last words. This theme had it beginning perhaps as early as the tenth century, and culminated in the thirteenth century in the triumphant figure of the Volto Santo di Lucca. With knowledge of this theme and applying his inimitable painted poetry, Bellini created a unique, inter-provincial landscape (Tuscan/Veneto), placing St Francis – the emulator of Christ – in the midst of his own many miraculous ‘deeds’ at the end of his mission. The beauty of the execution elevates Francis’s stance, gesture, and expression to his real-life period between wounding and death, when he was without fear, and full of joy.

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