Bernardo Strozzi (attributed to) - inv. 3270
According to the earliest biographers, Saint Francis had a vision two years before his death, while praying on Mount Verna. A figure appeared before him who looked like a seraphim with six wings, arms outstretched and feet joined to evoke the form of the cross. During this vision, stigmata appeared on the saint’s body: five wounds on his hands, feet and rib in memory of Christ’s Passion. The vagueness of the apparition slowly led artists to give up portraying the vision: they preferred to illustrate only the part about Francis and his reactions.
In our painting we realise a miraculous event is taking place due to the light projected onto the saint by the vision, by his astonishment and by the stigmata. Tree trunks, leafy boughs and rocks evoke a solitary place. Only a crucifix and a skull embellish the scene; all attention is focussed on the hands and face of Francis.
Strozzi painted the Ecstasy of Saint Francis on various occasions; not only because the painter had been a Capuchin friar when young, but also because the episode of the stigmata became ever more frequent and popular during the Counter Reformation period. The skull, symbol of reflection on the transience of earthly life, was added to the scene of the vision in those decades.
The reduced size of the work leads one to think that it was destined for private prayer. The painting has reached us in a precarious condition, which prevents unreservedly attributing it to the Genoese painter.