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(1440 - 1507)

Acacius and the 10,000 Martyrs on Mount Ararat

c. 1490
Tempera and oil on wood panel
60 3/4 x 44 x 1 1/4 in. (154.3 x 111.8 x 3.2 cm)
Century: 15th Century
Credit Line: Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H. Meadows Collection, MM.68.02
Accession Number: MM.68.02

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Visual Description

This painting is approximately 5 feet tall by 3.5 feet wide.  It depicts a scene from the story of Acacius, a 4th century Roman centurion who is crucified along with some of his troops. At the center of the composition, Acacius hangs on a wooden cross that extends the full length of the canvas. The cross is held in place by large rocks, logs, and a block of wood. Acacius’s hands and overlapping feet are secured to the cross with large nails. He has long brown hair and his large, bulging crescent-shaped eyes look upward toward the sky. He wears a red cap and a halo circles his head. To the right of his head, his name is written on the cross. Acacius wears a gold and red, patterned robe under which a red shirt and white undergarment are visible. The robe is tied at the waist and extends down to his ankles. It opens slightly to reveal his crossed legs.  
The figures of nine other men crucified on crosses fill the space around Acacius. Some face the viewers, while others face the sides and back of the scene. Their facial expressions, like that of Acacius, are droopy. Two men flank Acacius closely on either side. These men also wear gold-patterned clothing and have their names etched onto their crosses. Extending diagonally on the ground behind Acacius lies the body of a dead legionary whose hands and crossed feet are pierced by wooden nails. His clothing, too, is heavily patterned. The remaining men wear simple tunics with leggings, and halos circle all nine soldiers’ heads.
At the bottom of the composition a Roman soldier stands on each side, like bookends framing the scene. Both wear armor and a helmet. The man on the left looks directly at the viewer. He holds a large red heart-shaped shield in his left hand and a spear in his right hand. The Roman soldier on the bottom right side of the work looks up at Acacius. His hands are gloved; his right holds a long baton and his left holds the end of a brown tunic or cloth that hangs over his shoulder.  
The background is pastoral with green rolling slopes, rocks, and boulders, and trees in the distant background with a blue sky. There is a dirt path going from lower right to upper left that disappears into the folds of the hills. The horizontal and diagonal lines of the landscape counter the strong vertical lines formed by the crosses.

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