The suggestion that this delicately wrought crucifixion, probably the central element of a predella panel, might be by Jacobello Alberegno was first made by Miklós Boskovits (communication with owner). Jacobello is a rare but extremely interesting artist who was active in Venice at the end of the fourteenth century. This panel is an important addition to his known oeuvre which consists of a small triptych, a Crucifixion with Saints Gregory and Jerome, and five scenes from The Apocalypse, panels from a polyptych painted for S. Giovanni Evangelista, Torcello, now in the Accademia, Venice. The triptych is signed 'Jacob/us Alberegn/o pi/sit' and forms the basis for the attribution of the Torcello panels, first made by Longhi in 1947, and can now be used to attribute this work to the artist. Alberegno shows for the first time from a Venetian artist a decisive move away from the elaborate, highly colored, decorative manner popularized by Paolo Veneziano and his followers. The Veneziano aesthetic was a direct descendant of the Byzantine culture to which Venice was so attached. The tilted heads and dramatically modeled features of Paolo's Madonnas, their sumptuously embroidered robes, and the elegant, elongated fingers of the subsidiary figures, are all features of this style. With Alberegno we see a new directon. Even if the elements, most notably the sinuous, brilliantly enameled figures of the lateral saints, betray his Venetian origins, the Crucifixion (fig. 1) shows a new awareness of artistic innovations on the mainland, particularly from Verona and Padua where artists had been fired by the innovation of Giotto's insistence on a believable pictorial space, solid forms and narrative energy.
This painting was understandably linked to Turone, who worked in Verona and was an exponent of the Giottesque art, and whose key work, the Trinity polyptych (Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona) includes a Crucifixion which may have formed the basis for the early attribution of this work to the circle of Turone. However, this panel shows a greater dramatic sophistication. Despite its small scale, the division of the composition into discrete groups, each engaged in it own activity - the grieving Marys in the foreground, the soldiers at the right and left and Saint John standing stoically to the right - gives this panel a monumentality quite out of proportion to its size. The grandeur of the courtly figure types especially the soldier on the left seen in profile, and devices such as the placement of the horse and the use of lances to suggest pictorial space all indicate a knowledge of the frescoes of Altichiero, who painted in Padua in the late 1370s.
However, Alberegno retains his Venetian character. This is most visible in the dramatic modeling of the body of the crucified Christ. Extremely close to the Accademia Crucifixion, it shares the exaggerated slenderness of Christ's arms, his elongated torso, and his defined concave stomach a debt to the prototypes of Paolo Veneziano and his workshop. There is, however, even in this figure, a move away from the elegance of the byzantine line towards a more naturalistic one, which marks a new moment in the development of Venetian painting.