Mourning over the Dead Christ

Ambrogio o Angiolo di Bondone


The large choir that stands behind the back wall of the church, called in documents “Oratorio interno delle Clarisse” (inner oratory of the Clarisse), is the work of Leonardo di Vito, who probably conceived it as an autonomous church. It is a purely Gothic room of ample proportions divided in three naves by polystyle pillars. Old guide books mention that “there was not a square inch that was not colored by the hand of Giotto the Florentine, whom Roberto had brought over from Fiorenza. It is a priceless work for the delicacy of its colors and the beauty of its figures, which taught you something new every time you looked at them” (Capaccio, Il Forastiero, 1634). Unfortunately, in the mid sixteenth century the Spanish viceroy Barrionuevo had the frescoes painted by Giotto and his workshop destroyed. Today only scattered fragments survive: a Mourning over the Dead Christ against the background of the Calvary, and some painted architectural motifs. The head of the grieving old man is regarded as wholly due to the brush of the Florentine master, who must also have planned the entire composition of the fresco, whose bright colors (revealed by restoration) and expressiveness mark yet another watershed in the artist’s career. Giotto’s work at Santa Chiara inaugurates his felicitous Neapolitan period. He possibly made this move to Naples after being contacted personally in Florence by Charles of Calabria, son of Robert of Anjou, and his cultural advisors.



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