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Umbrian Diptych

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These panels once formed the left and right wing of a diptych, a painting made up of two parts joined by a central hinge. Holes on the left edge of the panel depicting the dead Christ match up with those at the right edge of the panel with the Virgin and Child; these once held hinges. Both panels have the same dimensions and the backgrounds are decorated with the same patterns and markings. The reverses are both painted to imitate red porphyry, a type of stone.

The images belong to the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) tradition. The diptych may have been made for a Franciscan friar – a member of the religious order which followed the teachings of Saint Francis and placed particular emphasis in their prayer upon Christ’s suffering. The Order’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean after the Fourth Crusade of 1204 (one of a series of medieval religious wars) meant that they would have been familiar with Byzantine imagery.

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