Crucifixion with Saints Jerome and Francis (Pala delle Tre Croci)

Francesco Bianchi Ferrari

Modena, documented from 1487 until 1510


Oil on wooden panel, 267 x 220cm

This altarpiece, originally from the Chiesa di San Francesco in Mirandola, was purchased in 1818 by Francesco IV d’Austria-Este along with the cimasa illustrating the Noli me tangere and the incomplete predella featuring scenes from the Passion of Christ, both currently kept at the Galleria Estense. 

In 1888 Adolfo Venturi attributed it to Bianchi Ferrari, making the panel the artist’s oldest work dated at the end of the 1480s. The point of reference for this crowded composition was undoubtedly the monumental Crucifixion frescoes on the walls of the decrepit Garganelli chapel in San Pietro, Bologna, carried out by Ercole de’ Roberti between 1475 and 1485. However, other formal characteristics of the work can be attributed to its Modenese context: the naturalism of the figure of Saint Francis, the torsos of the crucified and the group of Marys are reminiscent of Guido Mazzoni’s multi-coloured terracotta mourners, while the  incised definition of outlines was typical of Tarsia masters active in the city.