The Major Phase (1366-1373)
Little attention has been given to Luca di Tommè's later work. Instead, interest has often been focused on specific problems relating to his earlier paintings, and in particular the 1362 altarpiece. Luca's major phase begins in 1366 and runs to 1373. The year 1366, the date of his powerful Crucifixion, marks the end of any discernible influence of Niccolò di Ser Sozzo on the master, while the year 1373 denotes the eve of Luca's reception of a major commission from the commune of Siena, and a seeming increase in his involvement in governmental affairs. During these eight years, to judge from the large number of surviving works, Luca's production was substantial, and he was at the height of his artistic powers. Five intact or reconstructed polyptychs and several large votive panels highlight this activity. These and a number of other, related pictures reveal that Luca's shop must have been large and his influence considerable among a younger generation of artists.1. The hands of a number of assistants are evident within the former group, while the imprint of Luca's compositional and figural style appears with varying degrees of intensity among the latter.
Luca's unusual 1366 Crucifixion is located in the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo in Pisa (Cat. 19, Pls. 19-1-19-3). The panel is considerably damaged. The gold background has worn away and there are paint losses within the figures, but fortunately the original outlines remain strong and easily recognizable. The Virgin and John the Evangelist flank the crucified Christ. Depicted in the pointed gable above are the dove of the Holy Spirit within a painted rondel, and God the Father in an attitude of blessing.
Both the Virgin and John are similar to many of Luca's earlier figures, but here their expressions are more serious and contemplative. Standing very close to the forward picture plane, against what was originally a stark gold background with a low horizon line, these figures are both monumental and immediate to the viewer. The Virgin is similar to one of the angels in the Yale Assumption (Pl. 15-4), especially in the turn and inclination of her head-- as well as in the oval facial structure--but unlike the angel she is frowning, her brow is wrinkled, and her eyes are heavily shaded and narrowed. John, echoing the Virgin's sorrow, looks out at the viewer and gestures upward with his right hand, thus drawing our attention to the crucified Christ. The attitude of the two mourners is one of self-control or reserve. Even the representation of their drapery reflects this mood: the hem of the Virgin's cloak and the folds of John's mantle fall gently to the ground.
The figure of Christ has the same restraint found in the Virgin and John. His body does not seem wracked with pain, nor his face filled with suffering; instead he is presented relaxed in death. Curiously, Christ is somewhat smaller in scale in comparison with the flanking figures, even though the cross appears in the same plane in which the Virgin and John are situated. It is quite common to find the figure of Christ diminished in those depictions of the Crucifixion that include God the Father appearing above or supporting his dead Son on the cross (cf. Fig. 16).2. However, the use of this motif in a Crucifixion____________________