Reunited: Francescuccio Ghissi’s St. John Altarpiece

September 10, 2016—March 5, 2017
North Carolina Museum of Art

For the first time in more than 100 years, the eight known panels—and one re-created missing panel—of a 14th-century Italian altarpiece depicting Jesus’s crucifixion and scenes in the life of St. John the Evangelist can been seen and appreciated as one magnificent work of art.

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After years of separation, the individual panels of Francescuccio Ghissi’s St. John Altarpiece travel to the NCMA from different museums across the U.S. to be reunited in an exhibition that retells the story of this Renaissance masterwork.

During the 19th or early 20th century, the altarpiece was dismantled and sawed apart, and groups of the lateral panels, and the central Crucifixion, were sold separately to art collectors. Three of the flanking panels (formerly in the Kress collection) are today in the NCMA’s collection; one panel (also once in the Kress collection) is in the collection of the Portland Art Museum; three are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the larger central panel is at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Because the ninth and final flanking panel has never been found, the NCMA collaborated with a conservation specialist in taking the extraordinary step to re-create the missing panel using 14th-century materials and techniques.

In addition to the reunited altarpiece, the exhibition features a video of a virtual re-creation of the altarpiece showing how it might have appeared when it left the artist’s workshop circa 1370; a video exploring the mathematical algorithmic processes Duke University researchers used to virtually age and revitalize the panels; another video documenting the collaborative process of creating the missing panel; and a display of pigments similar to those used in the Renaissance with their mineral, insect, and plant sources, as well as brushes and gilding tools.

Learn more on the Duke University Image Processing for Art Investigation (IPAI) website.

Attributed to Francescuccio Ghissi, Acteus and Eugenius Implore St. John the Evangelist to Restore Their Wealth, circa 1370–80, tempera and gold leaf on panel, 13 3/4 x 15 in., Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation


In Raleigh generous support is provided by the Ron and Jeanette Doggett Endowment, the Charles E. and Pauline Lewis Hayworth Endowment, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Joseph F. McCrindle Art Conservation Endowment. This exhibition is also made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. Research for this exhibition was made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.

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