Altichiero da Zevio

(active c. 1369-1384)
   In the second half of the 14th century, a school of artists developed in Padua, inspired by Giotto's frescoes in the Arena Chapel. One of the leading figures of this school was Altichiero. Originally from Verona, in the 1370s, Altichiero worked in Padua for the Lupi, a family of condottieri who served the city's rulers, the Carrara. Bonifazio Lupi commissioned Altichiero to decorate the family funerary chapel in the Church of San Antonio (il Santo), directly across the tomb of St. Anthony. The scenes chosen were from the life of St. James, Bonifacio's patron saint. The altar wall features a monumental Crucifixion with the cross in the foreground and incidental scenes behind it. The image offers contrasts between the suffering Christ and the grieving figures at the foot of the cross and the busy, noisy, apathetic individuals in the middle and background who barely notice the event. The teaching offered by the image is that only those who believe in Christ will be saved, an appropriate theme for a funerary setting. The Crucifixion is a precedent for the fresco of the same subject by Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice (1564), which also depicts a noisy, active scene. The Lupi frescoes were such a success that in 1377 Raimondo Lupi asked Altichiero to fresco the Oratory of St. George next door to the Santo, used by his family as a funerary chapel, with scenes from the life of St. George. These images, like the ones in the Santo, show convincing perspective, figures that move realistically in the rendered space, and individualized facial features that suggest that some of the figures may actually be portraits of members of the Lupi family.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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