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Bastianino's Painting "Living Cross of Ferrara"

The altarpiece “Living Cross of Ferrara” by Sebastiano Filippi, so-called Bastianino, has a height of almost three meters and dates from the second half of the 16th century. The iconographical peculiar and rather rare depiction of the cross with arms at its beam ends shows an allegory of the Old and New Law with many accompanying scenes. The painting takes up the representation of a wall-filling fresco by Garofalo, currently preserved in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara (Inv. 143): "Il Nuovo e il Vecchio Testamento".

Object history and state of preservation

In 1912 the descendants of Eduard Friedrich Weber, a consul of Hamburg donated the painting to the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (today: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) . The painting was stored in the Berlin Cathedral during the war years. Due to the unfavorable climatic conditions, the poplar panel shrank and cracked. At the same time, paint layers severely loosened and the painting suffered considerable losses. In addition, older large overpaintings, yellowed varnishes and residues of earlier consolidation treatments considerably impaired the overall effect of the work of art today.

Conservation project

The painting has been on permanent loan in the Gemäldegalerie since 2015. The Gemäldegalerie and the Humboldt-Universität share the goal of making the painting accessible to the public again after more than 100 years of storage. The comprehensive conservation and restoration program is financed by the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung. It enables to carry out technical examinations and consolidation measures. In addition, the removal of yellowed varnish layers, discolored retouchings, large overpaintings as well as coarse fillings from later restoration phases are implemented. The cracks of the wooden support have to be stabilized before painting losses can be filled and retouched again. After the application of a new thin varnish layer, the painting will be presented in a taylored new frame. The "Living Cross of Ferrara", its restoration and its significance in the historical and art-historical context will be the focus of a special presentation of the Gemäldegalerie in 2020.


Sebastiano Filippi, called Bastianino, Living Cross of Ferrara, ca. 1570, detail during restoration
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie / Maria Zielke

Bastianino: The Living Cross of Ferrara The Restoration of a Forgotten Altarpiece

Cooperation partner: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Theologische Fakultät; Rathgen Research Lab of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Duration: December 2018 to December 2019
Funding: Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, Kunst auf Lager
Contact Persons: Babette Hartwieg, Head of Conservation Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Maria Zielke, Diplom paintings conservator, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Theologische Fakultät