Processional Cross, late 15th century
Unknown (Italian - 15th century)
gilt copper over poplar structure
66 x 42.7 x 8.2 cm with bottom metal extension for insertion into pole
National Gallery of Canada (no. 15864)
The cross would have been carried atop a staff. The expressive figures in the medallions expand and comment on the crucifixion. The Virgin and St. John, at each side, mourn Christ; Mary Magdalene is at the foot of the cross. The other figures transcend the historic event, setting it in its theological context: John the Baptist, who announced Christ's coming, is placed at the top; on the back are the four Evangelists who recorded his life and prophesized his return. The iconography was shared across Europe; the style and decorative motifs suggest it was made in Northern Italy. Relics were once placed inside the cross, amplifying its power.