Many a nonbeliever has been struck dumb by the spiritual force of this painting, which may well be Giovanni Bellini's masterpiece, one of the finest works in The Frick Collection, and possibly the greatest Renaissance painting in America. The artist has portrayed St. Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226) alone in a stony wilderness, stepping forward from his simple shelter into a golden light that seems to transfigure him spiritually. Perhaps he is receiving the stigmata—the wounds of Christ's crucifixion—as it is believed he did in 1224 during a retreat on Mount Alverna. While this subject was frequently represented in the late fifteenth century, it usually included a small seraphic crucifix emitting rays. Here, however, the miracle is implicit in the transcendental light that originates at upper left, brightens the walls of the rock formation, and, in the right foreground, casts deep shadows behind the saint and the espaliered limbs that screen his workspace. Reinforcing this effect, the laurel tree at the upper left glows and bends, as if compelled to move toward a supernatural force. The landscape is filled with richly observed details—animals, birds, persons, plants, castles, objects such as the skull and sandals, even a bell and cord to ring the canonical hours. The scrap of paper blown against some branches at lower left bears the proud signature of the artist.