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Two wooden panels depicting the Virgin Mary and Christ on the Cross

Two wooden, gold-painted panels are joined in the middle by three metal hinges. The left is an image of a light-skinned Virgin Mary holding a light-skinned child Jesus on her left side. He clasps her translucent veil in his right hand. Mary and Jesus wear red and black robes and sit on a large, castle-like throne with turrets. The right panel shows Jesus on a black cross, blood coming from his hands and side. Two figures with halos stand below him with clasped hands. Bordering each panel is a series of small gouged-out rectangles.

Gallery Text

The kneeling group of Franciscan nuns at the foot of the Virgin’s throne makes it clear that this portable reliquary was made for a community of Poor Clare nuns. Their orderly placement beneath the solidly built throne contrasts with the image of the Crucifixion beside it, which amplifies the physical and emotional aspects of the Passion. In that panel, every element is intensified, from the expressively charged angels above the cross to the streams of blood that pool on the rocks of Golgotha.

This painting seems to respond to the Meditationes Vitae Christi (Meditations on the Life of Christ), a popular text written in the early fourteenth century as a devotional tool for Franciscan nuns. Its carefully narrated “meditations” were meant to touch nuns’ emotions and move them to experience the stories of salvation.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Master of Offida, Italian (active c. 1350)
The Virgin and Child Enthroned; Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist
Work Type
c. 1350
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Umbria
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art, Medieval Art
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Physical Descriptions

Tempera and gold on panel with engaged frame
overall: 41 x 53.6 x 3.3 cm (16 1/8 x 21 1/8 x 1 5/16 in.)
left: 40.8 x 26.4 x 3.3 cm (16 1/16 x 10 3/8 x 1 5/16 in.)
right: 40.8 x 26.4 x 3.3 cm (16 1/16 x 10 3/8 x 1 5/16 in.)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Harold W. Parsons
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 242 [as 14th century Umbria]
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 118, 286, repr. b/w cat. no. 500
  • Axel Langer, ed., In the Name of the Image: Figurative Representation in Islamic and Christian Cultures, Hatje Cantz (Berlin, 2022), pp. 377-379, fig. 3

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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