Greek icon | Triptych with the Crucifixion

Triptych with the Crucifixion A-6

Italo-Cretan, Ioanes Maria Scupula, Otranto (attributed), first half 16th century
Tempera on wood, 12.7 x 23.5 cm (open), 12.7 x 8.2 cm (closed)

Private collection, The Netherlands
Christie’s Amsterdam, 20 September 2007, Lot 523A
Private collection, The Netherlands
ALR Ref. No.: S00151414


Simon Morsink

When opened, this interesting and well-preserved triptych shows the Crucifixion of Christ on the central panel. Christ's blood is dripping from his hands and the wound at his side. Mary Magdalen, crying, is kneeling at the foot of the cross. To the left, the Virgin is fainting overwhelmed by grief. The Betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane is shown on the left-wing. Judas and Christ stand at the centre of the scene, underneath a large fluttering red banner (colour of Christ's martyrdom), and surrounded by a large crowd of Roman soldiers holding long lances. On the right-wing, the Resurrection of Christ is represented. Christ is rising from the grave, holding a large white banner (colour of his victory). Two Roman soldiers, armed with large golden halberds, are lying asleep. All three scenes from the Passion of Christ are set against a dramatic black background. On the reverse of the left-wing, St Jerome is depicted as a hermit, looking up at the crucified Christ to the right, and beating his chest in penance for the visions of pleasure that interrupt his meditations. To the left is a tree with the typical red cardinal mantle and hat of the saint. The creature to the lower right side represents the lion who, according to legend became St Jerome's faithful companion after the saint removed a thorn from his paw.
There can be no doubt that the triptych was painted by Giovanni Maria Scupula. Together with his brother Fabrizio, who was also trained as an icon painter, he left the island of Crete in the early 16th century to settle in Otranto in Puglia in southern Italy. Here the two brothers formed a highly individual school of painting, which was distinctly Byzantine in character, together with the two other brothers who emigrated from Crete to Italy, Donato and Angelo Bizamano (see also cat. no. A-5).  
Signed triptychs by the hand of Ioanes Maria Scupula are in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg,   in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (A.R. Murphy, European Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, An Illustrated Summary Catalogue, Boston, 1985, p. 261, illustrated), an in a private collection in Belgium. A signed polyptych with Scenes from the Passion, formerly in the collection of Morsink Icon Gallery is currently in the Sam Fogg-collection, London.