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Burial of the Wood

Disposal of the recalcitrant piece of wood is crucial to the continuity of the Story of the True Cross, since it identifies the wood’s location during the time between the Old and New Testaments. It is significant that Piero disassociates the image of this destructive act from the noble king, placing it on the altar wall, as far away as possible while remaining on the same side of the apse and at the same level.

Three Workmen Bury the Wood

Three slovenly men struggle to push what is now a plank of wood into a body of water. The first has disheveled his clothes in the strain; the second, pushing up with a stick, bites his lip with exertion. The third uses only his hands to push, while the wreath on his head implies a bit of tippling. Following Solomon’s orders, they are trying to hide the wood forever, but to no avail. Much later the wood will rise to the surface of what became known as the Probatic pool, working miracles by healing the sick and the lame who came to bath there.

Piero has encapsulated these events by focusing on the workmen who know nothing of their mission. He creates what appears to be a genre scene, again with implied relationships across the corner. On the right, the back-side of the drunken workman is juxtaposed and thereby equated to the hindquarters of a horse on the adjacent wall. Another nearby horse “laughs” at this interaction. At the same time, the lead worker, who exposes his nether parts, is made to prophesy the future function of the wood by taking the pose of “Christ Carrying the Cross,” even having a kind of halo in the grain of the wood behind his head. The diagonal of the plank extends beyond the frame, leading down to the next scene in the sequence.