Room 51

Italy 1250–1350

The earliest works in the National Gallery’s collection are displayed in this room - Like most paintings of this period, they were intended for Christian worship.They were painted as altarpieces, to decorate the fronts of altars, or as crucifixes to hang in church interiors. Churchmen and women, and members of the social elite, owned small images of Christian subjects to stimulate private prayer and devotion; an outstanding example of which is The Wilton Diptych.

Italian painting of this period is indebted to the art of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine icons (sacred images of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints) were venerated across the Italian peninsula. Their gilded backgrounds and deep colours were an inspiration to many painters. So, too, were the subjects they depicted. For instance, the depiction of Christ as the Man of Sorrows – first developed in Byzantine art of the 12th century – was much copied in Italy.

In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, painters across Italy strove to inject a new, naturalistic spirit into painting. Cimabue, for instance, shows the Christ Child as a real baby, clinging to his mother’s hand. Giotto, who may have been Cimabue’s pupil, gives his figures monumentality and gravity, often placing them within convincing architectural spaces.

Paintings in this room

Barnaba da Modena: 'Pentecost'
Barnaba da Modena
English or French (?), The Wilton Diptych
The Wilton Diptych
English or French (?)
Attributed to Giotto di Bondone: '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'
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