Room 51

Italy 1250–1350

The earliest works in the National Gallery, from the 13th and 14th centuries, are displayed in this room. Like most Italian paintings of this period, they were intended for Christian worship. Panels were painted as altarpieces, to decorate the fronts of altars or as crucifixes to hang in church interiors. Clerics owned small portable altarpieces for their private devotions.

The impact of Byzantine icons was all-pervasive, as can be seen in a diptych probably made in Umbria. Typically these paintings have a gold ground and set formulae for depicting sacred subjects.

This one is the earliest surviving Italian painting to depict Christ as the Man of Sorrows, a subject that encouraged viewers to focus on his suffering. Many altarpieces were later cut into fragments, including that made for Siena Cathedral by the city’s leading artist Duccio. His refined linearity was crucial in forming the styles of his 14th-century Sienese followers.

Cimabue was the leading painter in the rival Tuscan city-state of Florence. He was succeeded by Giotto, whose style is marked by an increasing naturalism and monumentality. The Black Death of 1348 deprived Central Italy of many of its best painters, including the Sienese Lorenzetti brothers, Ambrogio and Pietro, as well as the Florentine Bernardo Daddi.

Paintings in this room

Barnaba da Modena: 'Pentecost'
Pentecost
Barnaba da Modena
Attributed to Giotto di Bondone: 'Pentecost'
Pentecost
Giotto and Workshop
The Dead Christ and the Virgin
Neapolitan follower of Giotto
Italian, Venetian: 'The Dead Christ'
The Man of Sorrows
Probably by Jacobello del Bonomo
Lippo di Dalmasio: 'The Madonna of Humility'
The Madonna of Humility
Lippo di Dalmasio
Master of Saint Francis: 'Crucifix'
Crucifix
Master of Saint Francis
Italian, Umbrian (?): 'The Man of Sorrows'
The Man of Sorrows
Master of the Borgo Crucifix (Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes)
Italian, Umbrian (?): 'The Virgin and Child'
The Virgin and Child
Master of the Borgo Crucifix (Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes)
Attributed to Clarisse Master: 'The Virgin and Child'
The Virgin and Child
Master of the Clarisse (possibly Rinaldo da Siena)
Simone dei Crocefissi: 'Dream of the Virgin'
Dream of the Virgin
Simone dei Crocefissi