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Predella of La Madonna della Rondine
Carlo Crivelli

This predella (literally ‘platform’ or ’step‘, the bottom tier of an altarpiece) comes from a large altarpiece which Crivelli painted for the Ottoni family chapel in the Franciscan church at Matelica, in the Italian Marches.

The scenes reflect the patrons’ different interests – one was a churchman, the other a soldier – and tell us more about the holy figures above. Saints Catherine and Jerome on the left represent theological learning, while Saints George and Sebastian on the right were soldiers.

In the centre, the holy family shelter in a ruined building, symbolising the old law that Christ replaced. Through the arch to the right shepherds gaze up in amazement at the choir of angels announcing Christ’s birth, while their dog sleeps on oblivious to the miracle above.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title Predella of La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)
Group Altarpiece from S. Francesco dei Zoccolanti, Matelica
Date made after 1490
Medium and support Egg and oil on poplar
Dimensions 150.5 x 107.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1862
Inventory number NG724.2
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Altarpiece from S. Francesco dei Zoccolanti, Matelica


This large altarpiece was painted by Carlo Crivelli in 1491 for a family chapel in the Franciscan church in Matelica, a small town in the Italian Marches. The Ottoni were the local ruling family – you can see their coat of arms placed conspicuously on the bottom edge of the main panel.

The location heavily influenced the altarpiece’s design. The Ottoni chapel was tall and needed a tall altarpiece: including the frame and predella (the bottom tier) the painting is approximately 2.5 metres high. There was a large window on the back wall of the chapel – which was unusual – so the altar and altarpiece had to be on the side walls. This painting was on the left wall; the light in it comes from the upper right, mimicking the actual light in the chapel.