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Saint Lucy
Carlo Crivelli
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This elegant woman is Saint Lucy. She once stood on the Virgin’s left in a small altarpiece which Crivelli painted for a side chapel in the church of San Domenico, in Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. Lucy holds her cactus-like martyr’s palm in one hand, and a circular wooden plate in the other. On the trencher are pair of hooded, oval eyes which cast shadows on the golden wood: Lucy’s eyes were removed as part of her martyrdom (she is now the patron saint of opticians).

In a detail typical of Crivelli, her elongated, bony toes in their pointed red sandals poke out over the edge of the marble parapet on which she stands, linking her heavenly space with ours.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title Saint Lucy
Group Four Panels from an Altarpiece, Ascoli Piceno
Date made about 1476
Medium and support Tempera on lime
Dimensions 91 x 26.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1868
Inventory number NG788.12
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Four Panels from an Altarpiece, Ascoli Piceno

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These panels came from an altarpiece which Crivelli painted for a side chapel in the Dominican church at Ascoli Piceno, in the Italian Marche. The saints are identifiable by their attributes: Saint Michael, Prince of Archangels, fighting the devil; Saint Jerome, one of the Doctors of the Church, with his tame lion; Saint Peter Martyr, the second saint of the Dominican Order, a knife buried in his skull; and Saint Lucy, with her eyes on a wooden dish. The choice of saints must have had a special meaning to the original patron.

Although we don’t know who commissioned this polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece), plainly no expense was spared. The saints’ haloes and damask backgrounds would have sparkled and flickered in the candlelight of the Middle Ages, and lit the church with a glittering golden glow.

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