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Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Town Hall, “Vittore Crivelli” Civic Art Gallery -

Vittore Crivelli, Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elisabeth




The triptych, attributed around the first half of the 20th century to Vittore Crivelli by illustrious critics such as Luigi Serra and Pietro Zampetti, depicts the meeting of the Virgin Mary with Elisabeth, narrated also by Saint Luke in a celebrated passage of the Gospel: “Mary entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb. Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and she spake out with a loud voice: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" . According to an unconfirmed tradition, the triptych was commissioned by Saint James of the Marche. The lower order is divided into three by pilasters surmounted by Corinthian capitals and whilst the centre panel immortalises the moment of the meeting between the two women, the right panel depicts Saint Francis and the left panel John the Baptist. The saints are wrapped in precious cloaks, which, thanks to an excellent chiaroscuro effect, show drapery capable of fully defining the volumes. Behind the Virgin, on a low parapet, stands a vase with three carnations which, in their isolated simplicity, convey a double meaning. The number of these flowers originally imported from Tunisia is an axiomatic reference to the Trinity, while cloves, in Italian called “chiodi di garofano”, carnation nails, pre-announce the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and recall to mind the revelatory words of the Angel of the Lord: “Mary will give birth to a son (…): he will save his people from their sins”. Behind the two women hang two festoons full of fruits, which have not only a decorative function, but also an intrinsic meaning, understandable only according to medieval symbolism. The garland placed behind the Virgin is made up of yellow plums which convey the idea of her chastity, a shiny and solid apple which alludes to original sin and a bunch of cherries hanging from the prohibited fruit which symbolise the blood shed by Christ. Behind Elisabeth, in contrast, hangs a wreath of pears which, for the sweetness that distinguishes them, seem to call to mind a passage of the psalms: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”. Among the leaves we can also see an apple which, besides indicating the malus, is also a synonym of redemption, possible only thanks to that bunch of grapes that seems to incarnate the Passion of Christ, who said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman”. On the same balustrade on which the vase with the three carnations stands, we can see an open book which is the depositary of revealed wisdom and an unfurled scroll which alludes to the doctrinal tradition. To the right of the two saints Saint Francis of Assisi is depicted wearing a habit and cincture, holding a crucifix and showing the stigmata, his greatest attribute in traditional Christian art. To their left, is Saint John the Baptist who according to the most traditional iconography is dressed in a poor hermit's habit holding in his left hand a cross with the typical furled scroll. The upper panel depicts the Crucifixion of Christ, foretold several times by the fruits collected around Mary and Elisabeth.