– Text provided by Sr. Jean Moore –
Perhaps one of the most recognizable images of Francis of Assisi, this portrait was painted by the Florentine fresco artist Cimbabue (also known by his baptismal name, Cenni di Pepo). Cimabue is known as the “Father of Italian Painting” because he was the first artist to move away from the stylized and rigid conventions of Byzantine art. He is also well-known as the teacher of Giotto, also of Florence, who went on to paint the famous frescoes of the life of St. Francis found in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.
This portrait of Francis has been claimed as the most “accurate” depiction of the person of Francis, most likely because Cimabue painted it in 1280, fifty-four years after the death of Francis. Those who knew Francis purportedly were able to describe Francis to Cimabue for this portrait. It is found in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi as part of the fresco Virgin and Child Enthroned, with St. Francis.
Cimabue’s Francis of Assisi was chosen for the Viterbo University Collection as an authentic depiction of the patron saint of this Catholic, Franciscan University. The portrait is found in three formats: the full body portrait of Francis and a small- and large-sized portrait of the upper torso and head.