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Cupramarittima, Saint Bassus's Parish Church - Vittore Crivelli, Madonna and Angels adoring the Child




The triptych, which is divided by pilasters decorated with simple vegetable ornaments, was attributed to Vittore Crivelli by illustrious art critics such as Luigi Serra and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. The work was the cause of several disputes in relation to both its dating which today is believed to be around 1494, and its attribution which caused serious doubts owing mainly to the crudeness of the anatomical details and a flatness generally remedied with marked chiaroscuro effects. Several scholars interpreted the various stylistic ingenuities present in the canvas commissioned to the painter in his old age as the work of a number of apprentices in his workshop. In the middle of the painting is the Virgin Mary, crowned by small angelic heads and flanked by a clumsy couple of cherubim, while with hands joined she adores the Baby Jesus. Her face, characterised by delicate and gentle features, is pervaded by a rueful anxiety which forebodes the messianic sacrifice of the Son of God. The two books placed between Jesus and the Madonna, with all probability represent the Old and New Testaments. The left panel depicts Saint Bassus, Bishop of Nice and patron saint of Cupramarittima, the town on the southern coast of the Marche in which his mortal remains were found. Dressed in sumptuous bishop's robes, in his right hand the saint holds his crosier and a book which is most likely to be the Holy Gospel, whilst in his left hand he holds the instrument of his torture. This consists of two long skewers which, according to the ancient Christian tradition, were used to pierce him through from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. The opposite panel depicts Saint Sebastian in accordance with the most typical renaissance iconography. Tied to a wooden column and covered only with a white cloth around his hips, the saint from Gaul is depicted being subjected to a hail of arrows. His sin was to have taken advantage of his position as commander of the first legion stationed in Rome to assist a number of Christians imprisoned in the city. Whilst behind the Virgin there hangs a brocade cloth with a gold background and spidery twigs making soft ornamental patterns, behind the two saints hang peacock-green curtains which, according to some scholars, symbolise the Contemplation and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ