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Saint Dominic
Carlo Crivelli
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This saintly friar comes from a large polyptych (a many-panelled altarpiece) which Crivelli painted in 1476 for the high altar of church of San Domenico at Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. This is Saint Dominic himself, holding a white lily to symbolise his chastity and the book of his Rule – the code of practice for the religious order he founded.

The severity of his black and white robes – the uniform of Dominican Order – contrasts with the damask tooling of the burnished gold background. His face is a rare demonstration of Crivelli’s abilities as a portraitist. This is a highly individual face, with its long nose, deep-set eyes ringed with creases and wrinkles, and the line of an old scar running down his cheek. The figure is here in a double role: it is Saint Dominic and a portrait of the Blessed Constanzo di Meo di Servolo, the leading Dominican in the Marche and the commissioner of this altarpiece.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title Saint Dominic
Group The Demidoff Altarpiece
Date made 1476
Medium and support Tempera on poplar
Dimensions 137.5 x 40 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1868
Inventory number NG788.5
Location in Gallery Room 57
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The Demidoff Altarpiece

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Crivelli painted two altarpieces for the small church of San Domenico, in the town of Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. Their history is complex and intertwined. A large, double-tiered polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) sat on the high altar, while a smaller altarpiece was in a side chapel.

In the nineteenth century parts of both altarpieces were sold to a Russian prince, Anatole Demidoff, who mounted them in a grand frame to make a three-tiered altarpiece for the chapel of his villa in Florence. The whole complex is now known as the Demidoff Altarpiece.

The National Gallery bought the Demidoff Altarpiece in 1868, and in 1961 the panels from the smaller polyptych were removed. They are now displayed separately.

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