Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John

Photo: Eduardo Calderon

Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John


Lorenzo Monaco

Italian, Florence, ca. 1370-1425

As you study this painting of Christ’s death on the cross, you may ask why the artist has chosen to omit any sense of tragedy and suffering. Instead, dramatic narrative is transformed into a timeless symbol of redemption. Christ’s mother and his closest disciple, St. John, flank the cross in attitudes of adoration and acceptance of his sacrifice, serving as an example for the devout viewer who meditates on his death. Above, the pelican piercing her breast to feed her young is a symbol of Christ’s self-sacrifice. The painting still has its original frame, which bears the date 1408 and an inscription praising the Virgin Mary.

Egg tempera and gold on wood
49 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Provenance: Charles Butler (1822-1910), London and Warren Wood, Hatfield, by 1885 until at least 1894 (exhibited: Royal Academy, London, Old Masters exhibition, 1885, no. 229, as Cennino Cennini; New Gallery, London, 1894, no. 40, as Cennino Cennini) [1]; [Wildenstein & Co., New York]; purchased by Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York, June 23, 1949; Seattle Art Museum, since 1952, accessioned 1961 [1] Not included in either of the very large sales of paintings from the Butler estate hed at Christie's, London, May 25-26, 1911 and July 7, 1911
Photo: Eduardo Calderon
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryLondon, England, Royal Academy, Burlington House, Winter exhibition, 1885. Cat. no. 229, p. 48.

London, England, [institution], 1893-4. Cat. no. 40, p. 8.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Italian Art: Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1952. Text by William Suida and Sherman Lee. Cat. no. 8, pp. 6, 9, 14.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Renaissance Art in Focus: Neri di Bicci and Devotional Paintings in Italy, Mar. 25, 2004 - Dec. 31, 2005. Text by Elizabeth Darrow and Nicholas Dorman. No cat. no., pp. 67-69, reproduced figs. 1-6.

Published ReferencesSuida, William and Richard Fuller. European Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Art Museum, 1954; p. 28, reproduced p. 29.

Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Italian Schools XIII-XV Century. London, England: Phaidon Press for the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1966; p. 90, reproduced fig. 240.

Federico, Zeri. Italian Paintings: Florentine School: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1971; p. 68.

Frederickson, Burton B. and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972; p. 111.

Eisenberg, Marvin. Lorenzo Monaco. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989; p. 166, 102, reproduced fig. 137.

Kanter, Laurence B., et al. Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Europe. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994; pp. 250-253, reproduced fig. 99.

Ishikawa, Chiyo. The Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Art Museum, 1997; pp. 35, 37, reproduced fig. 19.

Ishikawa, Chiyo. "Seattle Art Museum." In Italian Treasures in the U.S.: An Itinerary of Art. Edited by Renato Miracco. Rome, Italy: Gangemi Editore International Publishing, 2015; p. 200.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM