The Sant’Emidio Polyptych, immovable art

The Sant’Emidio Polyptych is exactly in the same place where it was first put in 1473. It was commissioned to the Venetian painter Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1430 – ca. 1490) by the bishop of Ascoli Piceno, Prospero Caffarelli, and was placed in Sant’Emidio cathedral – never to be moved.

The painting – tempera and gold on panel, its central panel reading “Opus Karoli Crivelli Veneti 1473” – was originally placed in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament. It is a rare example of well-preserved pictorial art from the 1400s. Even more extraordinary is the fact that it is still in the same building after centuries.

The polyptych is about 290×280 centimeters, divided in three rows: a “Madonna with Child on the Throne” is at the center, flanked by Saint Emygdius (the bishop after whom the cathedral is named), Saint Paul, Saint Peter, and Saint John the Baptist.

At the center of the top row is an outstanding “Pietà”. Some critics say it was inspired by Donatello’s and Giovanni Bellini’s works – with Mary in tears, her face resting on her son’s; John the Apostle; and Mary Magdalene inspecting the wound a nail has left in her Lord’s hand. The scene is surrounded by portraits of Saint Catherine, Saint Jerome, Saint George, and Saint Ursula.

At the center of the predella, Christ blesses the faithful with one hand and holds the globe in the other, surrounded by some of his apostles.

A beautiful, time-defying stillness.

January 17, 2014

The Sant’Emidio Polyptych, immovable art

Ascoli Piceno
Piazza Arringo