Source document: Convivium. 2016, vol. 3, iss. 2, pp. 106-125
ISSN2336-3452 (print)2336-808X (online)
License: Not specified license
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The work, hence the appreciation, of Filippo Rusuti deserves reconsideration. Both early and recent historiography show that Rusuti's art has been either persistently outranked by that of Jacopo Toritti and Pietro Cavallini, or overlooked altogether. One cause of this neglect is the extreme physical difficulty of examining the single work ascribed with certainty to Rusuti-which is, in effect, "signed" - the Christ in Majesty with saints and apostles in the topmost register of Santa Maria Maggiore's façade mosaic. Tucked high in the cavetto, this work was further obscured by the architectural addition of Ferdinando Fuga's eighteenth-century benedictional loggia. New photos published for the first time here, however, complemented by review of documents from several phases of restoration, enable unprecedentedly close study of this work. Visual inspection finds its condition generally good, despite some damage, and the artistic quality easily the match of Torriti's mosaics. In addition, suggestions emerge indicating that Rusuti may have had a hand in other portions of the basilica's decoration. The new photos also allow analysis of Rusuti's signature, which the artist placed beneath Christ's feet embedded in the mandorla. Inscribed in gold letters against blue, the signature achieves an aesthetic effect sought by goldsmiths; an example is Guccio di Mannaia's chalice, commissioned by Pope Nicolas iv. Looking farther afield, the signature's placement finds a parallel in Autun, in Gislebertus's name on Saint-Lazare's tympanum. The multiple links between papal Rome and France during the late thirteenth century, and evidence of Rusuti's service in France, imply that Rusuti could have encountered French dignitaries in the papal curia and the Colonna circle. These may have included Bérenger Frédol, who became cardinal of Ss. Nereo e Achilleo well before Rusuti's departure for France, where he served Philip the Fair as Pictor regis.