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Christ is shown crucified – the massive figure of God the Father holds the arms of the Cross as though presenting him to the viewer. A dove, representing the Holy Ghost, hovers between them. The three together represent the Trinity, the one Christian God consisting of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The surrounding figures were, according to the biblical accounts, present at the Crucifixion. Christ’s mother, Mary, and John the Evangelist stand on either side of the Cross; Mary Magdalene kneels clutching Christ’s feet.
Mansueti used contemporary architectural details to create a setting that would have been familiar to his Venetian audience: the marble is like that used for the Venetian basilica of San Marco. This setting is, however, only a screen within a landscape; it is a fantasy. The ambiguity might be intended to reflect the mystery of the subject which could neither be represented within an interior nor a landscape setting.
This dramatic and busy scene includes glimpses of a vast landscape and an imagined architectural setting. This is unusual for a representation of the Crucifixion, which were not normally set against architecture – but the scene is more than just this. It also shows the Trinity: God the Father, the massive figure shown here seated on a throne, supporting the arms of the Cross; the Holy Ghost, shown as a dove; and Jesus Christ, nailed to the Cross.
The surrounding figures were, according to the biblical accounts, present at the Crucifixion and usually appear in more conventional scenes which do not include the Trinity. Christ’s mother, Mary, and John the Evangelist stand on either side of the Cross; Mary Magdalene kneels clutching Christ’s feet. The Apostles Peter and James frame the back row. The kneeling male figures are Nicodemus, who carries a pair of pliers – he removed the nails from Christ’s hands and feet – and Joseph of Arimathea, who provided the tomb for Christ’s body.
Giovanni Mansueti was a Venetian painter who provided images for the headquarters of the city’s confraternities, known in Venice as scuole. The scuole required large series of religious paintings to decorate the walls and communicate specific theological messages.
The coloured and veined marbles in Mansueti’s picture recall the largest and grandest church in Venice, the basilica of San Marco: its facade and interior were filled with coloured marbles. Two small cherubs stand within little curved balconies that look like pulpits (where sermons were preached), framing arches that open out onto a view of a broad landscape. These kind of miniature pulpits can be found in the Venetian church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, which was completed only in 1493 and which Mansueti probably knew.
Although Mansueti used contemporary architectural details to create a setting that would have been familiar to his Venetian audience, it is only a screen within a landscape – a total fantasy. This ambiguity might be intended to reflect the mystery of the subject, which could neither be represented within an interior nor a landscape setting.
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