Tempera and gold on wood
Framed: 91 x 46.5 x 4.5 cm (35 13/16 x 18 5/16 x 1 3/4 in.); Unframed: 81 x 40.2 cm (31 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1962.36
Because of his simplicity, piety, and devotion to all living creatures, Saint Francis (1181–1226) has remained among the most revered and popular saints. Born to wealthy parents in Assisi, he first lived a life of spendthrift luxury. However, Francis later gave up all worldly goods and embraced an existence of utter poverty. Throughout his adult life, the saint experienced mystical trances and visions of Christ. Atop the cross here is a leafy tree and a nest of pelicans. Fifteenth-century viewers would have recognized the tree as a reference to the cross, which is often described as a tree, symbolizing Christ's role as the source of eternal life. The pelican, shown nourishing its young with its own blood, symbolizes Christ, who sacrifices himself for the salvation of mankind. This painting was the center pinnacle on the back of a double-sided altarpiece made for the church of San Francesco in Borgo Sansepolcro (near Arezzo).
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