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The Resurrection
Ugolino di Nerio
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Four Roman soldiers – the guards of Christ’s tomb, stationed to prevent anyone stealing the body – sleep on the ground. Christ, holding the flag of the Resurrection, steps out of the tomb, its lid cast aside on the ground behind.

This panel was part of the altarpiece Ugolino made for the church of Santa Croce, Florence. It came from the predella (the lowest part of the altarpiece) and was the last in a series of scenes of Christ’s life. Ugolino based these scenes on versions that his Sienese predecessor, Duccio, made for an altarpiece known as the Maestà.

Duccio’s image of the Resurrection does not survive, so this panel is important for giving us an impression of what that version may have looked like. The composition is similar to contemporary tomb sculpture found in both Siena and Florence in the early fourteenth century, suggesting that there was a standard composition for the image.

Key facts
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Full title The Resurrection
Series The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 41.5 x 58.1 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Viscount Rothermere, 1926
Inventory number NG4191
Location in Gallery Room 52
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The Santa Croce Altarpiece

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These panels were once part of a large altarpiece which adorned the high altar of the church of Santa Croce in Florence. It focused on the Passion of Christ (his torture and crucifixion) and the Resurrection – an appropriate theme, as the church was dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Drawings made in the late eighteenth century show how it was arranged originally. There were four tiers of images: the main tier had a central image of the Virgin and Child flanked by images of the saints within arches, which were decorated with angels (there are two sets of these in the National Gallery’s collection).

Above was a row of saints framed in pairs; we hold two pairs. The uppermost tier consisted of six pinnacle panels, three on either side of a central image which probably showed the Crucifixion, itself topped by an image of Christ making a blessing gesture. The predella (the lowest layer) consisted of seven scenes showing Christ’s suffering and death; we have four of these.

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