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The Virgin and Child with Ten Saints
Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze
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The Virgin and Child are surrounded by saints, each occupying a separate arched compartment bounded by spiral columns. The design is highly unusual and is not known in any other Italian paintings of the period. Its shape and layout have a very specific function: they map the Florentine Church of Santa Maria Novella, the city’s main church belonging to the Dominicans, the order of friars founded by Saint Dominic.

Each saint represents a chapel dedicated to them at the eastern end of the church. This explains why only three of the evangelists are shown, with the animals that became their symbols: Saint Mark with the lion, Saint Luke with the ox and Saint John with the eagle. Saint Matthew is missing because the church didn't have a chapel dedicated to him. It also explains the inclusion of three Dominican saints wearing the Order’s black cloaks. The sequence of saints in the panel mirrors that of the chapels on either side of the central altar, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Key facts
Artist Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze
Artist dates documented 1346; died 1379
Full title The Virgin and Child with Ten Saints
Date made about 1365-70
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 28 x 105.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs Richard F.P. Blennerhassett, 1940
Inventory number NG5115
Location in Gallery Not on display
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