A woman and her small child staring at the fresco.
Editor’s Note: "At the Heart of It All: Object Origins” is a blog series sharing ongoing research into the origins of artworks in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) permanent collection, a dynamic gathering of objects from around the world and across time. Understanding more about what’s in the collection, and being transparent about it, is important as we lean into our goal of decolonizing the UMFA

Research Reveals a Bigger Picture

By Alisa McCusker, UMFA Senior Curator and Curator of European & American art 

Researchers in Italy and the UMFA have discovered that the UMFA’s 15th-century Italian Crucifixion fresco is a fragment of a larger work. Scholars investigating frescos at a Franciscan monastery in the small commune of Martinengo in Bergamo found an image of the UMFA’s painting through an online search. Further research confirmed that the UMFA’s work is a fragment of a larger fresco in the monastery’s refectory (dining hall).  

An image of the original work in situ shows the fresco’s remaining underpainting, revealing that the UMFA’s fragment omits four additional saints flanking the figures around the foot of the cross. Archives in Martinengo also revealed the identities of the fresco’s artists, Antonio Zamara da Chiari (1432-1494) and his son Matteo (1452-1532/35). Associate curator of collections Luke Kelly, the UMFA’s provenance sleuth, discovered that this fresco was brought to the United States by publishing magnate, politician, and art collector William Randolph Hearst. 

This discovery is especially exciting because it allows us to image the artwork in the context it was created. The UMFA has a vested interest in understanding where the art in our collections comes from.

Make your own discoveries with the joint search of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the J. Willard Marriott Library’s catalogs. This tool offers insight into pivotal moments in art history, and the history of mankind through visual art and the library’s holdings of rare books, journals, manuscripts, digital images, and more. 

IMAGE CREDIT: Antonio Zamara da Chiari and Matteo Zamara da Chiari , Italian, 1432-1494 and 1452-1532/35, Fragment of Crucifixion with Five Saints (Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, John the Evangelist, Francis of Assisi, and Anthony of Padua), ca. 1480, fresco transferred to canvas, partial gift of Garner D. Irvine, with additional funds from LaReta Creer Kump, UMFA1984.088. Currently on display in European Gallery 2B2.