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La croce stauroteca del monastero di Santa Chiara nel Museo di Arte Sacra di San Gimignano: proposte iconografiche e stilistiche

 

Cristina Borgioli

 

Once belonging to the (suppressed) Monastero di Santa Chiara of San Gimignano, but today conserved in the Museo di Arte Sacra of that city, is a reliquary cross, decorated with silver leaf and embellished with figures of translucent enamel, that was produced in Siena in the last quarter of the Trecento. Although the object offers many aspects to consider, despite numerous lacunae, it has been almost completely ignored in studies of fourteenth-century Sienese metalwork. This essay attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the cross, beginning with its provenance: the convent of Clarissan nuns of San Gimignano, which was the home of such precious works as Coppo di Marcovaldo’s Crucifix and Memmo di Filipuccio’s Madonna and Child with Saints, both in the Pinacoteca Civica. The Clarissan convent, founded in the 1260s, was in close proximity to friars’ convent in San Gimignano, which oversaw the nuns’ spiritual care and notably was the residence of Fra Giovanni de’ Cauli, the presumed author of the Meditationes Vitae Christi, a fundamental text for the development of late medieval iconography. Documentary, iconographic, and stylistic analyses of the cross are followed by a reconstruction of its function and a study of the art historical context of its production.