Rare Painted Cross is the Oldest of 30 Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Paintings to Travel from Italy to Miami Art Exhibition

A “Painted Cross” dating back to ca. 1295 may be one of the earliest surviving crucifix paintings from medieval Umbria to be exhibited in the United States.  This remarkable piece, along with 30 other works from the 13th – 17th centuries, will make their journey from Italy to a South Florida art exhibition.“Faith, Beauty, and Devotion: Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Paintings” will open to the public on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at the Olga M. & Carlos A. Saladrigas Art Gallery at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School.

“It is extremely rare to find a surviving work from the late 13th century – a sort of ‘miracle,’ in fact,” as explained in the catalog that will be on sale at the exhibition. “Moreover, in this instance, the Umbrian master once identified as Rinaldo di Ranuccio by Roberto Longhi (one of the greatest Italian art historians of the first half of the 20th century) tried his hand at an exceedingly rare – perhaps even unique up to the present moment – iconography, depicting St. Francis and St. Clare alongside the arms of the cross.”

St. Clare, canonized in 1255, is shown to the left of Jesus’s body and St. Francis, Patron Saint of Assisi, canonized in 1228, to the right. (A young St. John and the Virgin are to the left and right of Jesus’ hands, respectively.)

Painted Cross ca. 1295, Umbrian-Marches Master, tempera, gold and silver on panel, 63x46.8”
Painted Cross ca. 1295, Umbrian-Marches Master, tempera, gold and silver on panel, 63×46.8”

Ahead of its Time

This rare painting marks the dawn of a “modern” style at a time in Italy when Byzantine influences were prevalent. It is considered ahead of its time since the artist pursued spatiality and depth at the end of the 13th century without possessing the basic mathematical knowledge of perspective used a hundred years later during the Renaissance.

A Form of Silent Speech

The symbology is the most important part of the composition as it was intended to speak to a humble, often illiterate audience which could understand, through the painting, the meaning of love, forgiveness, sacrifice, devotion, sorrow, and salvation.

“Painted Cross is a very rare painting that was made for a church in Umbria [a region where each year, approximately 6 million pilgrims make their way to visit St. Francis’ tomb in Assisi]. It represents a transition in Medieval art in the time of Giotto and Cimabue. Florence and Umbria were the main regions,” comments Federico Gandolfi Vannini, owner of Frascione Arte, which is presenting the Faith, Beauty,  and Devotion exhibition in partnership with Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. “The beauty of the piece functions to communicate the divine message to worshippers.”

“Painted Cross” was acquired by Frascione Arte from a private collection in Switzerland and has been recently loaned to La Galería Nacional, Museo Diocesano Spoleto, and the Accademia Gallery, which also houses Michelangelo’s David. The painting measures 63” x 47.2” (unframed) and the medium is tempera on panel. 

Continuing His Grandfather’s Journey:  Federico Gandolfi Vannini, Owner of Frascione Art 

Federico Gandolfi Vannini grew up surrounded by masterpieces by Goya, Caravaggio, and Titian while visiting his grandfather Vittorio Frascione, an accomplished antiquarian and art collector. Vittorio’s passion for high-quality works began with his father Enrico in the late 19th century. Federico initially studied law at the University of Florence, but while traveling extensively during his first year of university,  he became captivated by different cultures and history for a few years.  It was then that his journey as an antique dealer began. After running an antique emporium in Texas, Federico returned to Florence to study Art History.  In 2008, Federico opened Frascione Arte on the historic Via Maggio. Federico’s goal is to continue his grandfather’s journey and present with new energy four generations of a family’s passion and commitment to the art world. Today, he continues this journey alongside his wife Daisy, who serves as Frascione Arte’s Cultural Director.

Daisy Diaz was born in Miami to Cuban American parents. Her father’s passion for antiquities ignited Daisy’s lifelong commitment to the arts. After graduating from Boston College, she set out to complete a master’s degree in industrial design in Florence, which led to a career at Lungarno Alberghi (the Salvatore Ferragamo family’s hospitality and interior design group). Soon after, she formed her own distribution company. Daisy’s unwavering appreciation of the arts would lead her to meet Federico and, for more than a decade, the couple has expanded their private collection.

Since 2020, Federico and Daisy have lived in Miami while continuing to run Frascione Arte. They hope to make a lasting impact on South Florida’s arts and culture scene.

“Faith, Beauty, and Devotion” offers a unique opportunity to explore three significant periods in art history — Medieval, Renaissance, and the Baroque eras — through a captivating collection of 30 sacred and secular paintings by Italian and Flemish Masters. Most paintings have never been seen in the United States.

Other noteworthy highlights of the exhibition include tempera and gold on panel works by Nicolò di Pietro (Siena, ca. 1420) and Francesco di Zanino and Zanino di Pietro (Venetian School, 15th c.); tempera on gold leaf on parchment work by Pacino di Bonaguida (Florence, ca. 1340,); tempera on panel works by Ludovico Urbani; oil on panel portraits by Giuliano Bugiardini and Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (Florence); oil on canvas works by Jacopo Tintoretto (Venice, 16th c.), Louis Finson (Bruges, ca. 1607), Guercino (Bologna, ca. 1640), Circle of Caravaggio (Milan, 17th c.), and Francesco Botti (Florence, Baroque). Visit the full list of paintings at:  https://www.belenjesuit.org/exhibition.

The Gandolfi Vannini Family in their Key Biscayne, Miami home: (l to r) Manuel age 13 (class of ‘28 Belen); Federico Gandolfi Vannini, owner of Frascione Arte (Florence, Italy); Joseph age 7; Margherita age 9; Pietro age 11 (class of ‘30 Belen).
The Gandolfi Vannini Family in their Key Biscayne, Miami home: (l to r) Manuel age 13 (class of ‘28 Belen); Federico Gandolfi Vannini, owner of Frascione Arte (Florence, Italy); Joseph age 7; Margherita age 9; Pietro age 11 (class of ‘30 Belen).

Faith, Beauty, and Devotion: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque Paintings
September 16 – December 10, 2023, Art Basel Miami
Gallery Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm by appointment. Other hours by request.
Olga M. & Carlos A. Saladrigas Art Gallery
at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
500 SW 127 Ave.
Miami, FL 33184
Website: https://www.belenjesuit.org/exhibition
(786) 621-4624
Public Opening on Sat Sept 16th
The exhibition is free, though donations are welcomed to support future exhibitions. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

About Belen Jesuit Preparatory School

The Society of Jesus is both a missionary and a teaching Roman Catholic religious order since Pope Paul III founded it at the request of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1540.  The motto of the Society, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” indicates its goal to help all men and women to live according to Christ’s example of love and service. The Jesuits dedicated themselves to spreading the Gospel in mission lands and to the apostolate of education very early in their history. 

The Jesuits founded Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 1854 in Havana, Cuba.  In 1961, when the new political regime confiscated Belen and all private schools, the school was re-established in Miami that same year and has grown over the last five decades. Currently, the enrollment is nearly 1,400 male students in grades 6 to 12 and over seven thousand alumni. The Ignatian Center for the Arts includes the 665-seat, state-of-the-art Ophelia & Juan Js. Roca Theater and the 3,200 square-foot Olga M. & Carlos A. Saladrigas Art Gallery. The Saladrigas Gallery displays several professionally curated exhibits annually, a young artists exhibit, a Belen community art show, and numerous other projects.

Printing service