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Entries in Fresco (1)


Master of Saint Cecilia: A Mystery

Saint Cecilia Master - Legend of St Francis: 26. The Healing of a Devotee of the Saint - c. 1300 - Fresco, 270 x 230 cm - Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi (click photo for larger image)There do exist remarkable works of art created by artists whose names we do not know, and whose lives will always remain a mystery.

The Master of Saint Cecilia (active 1300-1320 in Florence) refers to an Italian painter named after the Saint Cecilia Altarpiece housed in the Uffizi. It was originally in the church of Saint Cecilia, destroyed by fire in 1304. Presumably, the artist was a Florentine, but nothing is known about him. Other works have been attributed to him because of their resemblance to the Uffizi work, the most important being the three concluding scenes of the great fresco cycle of the Life of Saint Francis in the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi. The painter of these scenes resembles Giotto (discussed elsewhere on What About Art?) in lucidity of presentation and in the solid drawing of his figures. But he is more genial in feeling than Giotto. His figures are more vivacious, and his colors are warmer and sweeter. The completion of the great cycle in the Upper Church would have been entrusted only to an established master. Some critics have attempted to identify the painter of these scenes and the Saint Cecilia Altarpiece with the famous but tantalizingly elusive Buffalmacco (1262-1340), however, there has been no universal agreement among scholars on that suggestion.

The detail featured here is the twenty-sixth of the twenty-eight scenes (twenty-five of which were painted by Giotto) of the Legend of Saint Francis from the Saint Cecilia Altarpiece. The fresco cycle in the Upper Church of the San Francesco at Assisi depicting the Legend of Saint Francis consists of 28 scenes. Although it is debated, the cycle is generally attributed to Giotto and his collaborators. However, Giotto's authorship of the closing scenes in the last bay of the nave are denied and these scenes are generally attributed to the Saint Cecilia Master.