Vittore Crivelli
St. Bonaventure

Late 15th century
Tempera on wood
Musée Jacquemart-André

This was painted around the time when Bonaventure was canonized in 1482. It follows the usual iconography of putting his Franciscan habit under garb representing his role as cardinal-bishop of Albano – in this case, a cardinal's red hat and the cope and mitre of a bishop. Crivelli also refers to the saint's copious theological works, many of them commentaries on scripture and earlier writers, by placing books on his right and writing implements on his left.

The tree-like crucifix in the Bonaventure's right hand refers to his Lignum Vitae ("The Tree of Life"), a meditation on the "fruits" of Christ's salvific death on the Cross. The garden background and the various fruits in the image refer to this "fruit" metaphor. The work exhorts the reader to keep the memory of Christ's death always before the "eye of the heart." Thus it is possible that the little figure in the lower left corner represents not a donor but a person who has embraced that counsel.

In other images Bonaventure's Tree of Life is more detailed and diagrammatic (Hollis and Simpson, 1-10); here its "fruits" are twelve haloed men and the Virgin Mary. The men are probably the apostles, but on the basis of their scrolls one might take them to be prophets who foretold the coming of Christ.

More of St. Bonaventure

Source (photo, medium, location): Wikimedia Commons