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While little is known about the life of famed Italian painter Cimabue, his religious iconography stands apart from the work of his peers in the fact that his figures are presented in a more realistic way, using proportions and shading to make them appear as part of life rather than symbolic. In Florence, where Cimabue was born, is one of his most famous paintings – Crucifixion. This particular work deviates from convention of the time in that Jesus is bent whilst on the cross, and the clothing depicted has some of the hallmark gold flecks that indicate one holds a position of prominence.

Throughout the late-1200s, Cimabue created a number of pieces that are still held in high regard in religious or cultural sites throughout Italy and Europe. CimabueCrucifix is on display at the Florentine church of Santa Croce; Maesta is on loan to the Louvre. At the end of his life – having lived in Rome, Florence, and, ultimately, Pisa – Cimabue would have just one work that would survive to the modern era that was directly attributed to him – a mosaic of Christ Enthroned. By 1302, Cimabue had died, and his legacy was left in the hands of an equally prominent artist, Giotto. While Cimabue’s contributions to the artistic world are often outshined by the Renaissance and the magnificent artwork to come out of that era, it was he that allowed for these more sweeping changes to take root so easily. Had he not prepared the art world for challenges to what they considered to be a default setting, the Renaissance may not have had the impact that it did, and art as we know it would be fundamentally different.

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