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Saints Ambrose, Exuperius and Jerome
Circle of the Master of Liesborn

This panel once formed the left shutter of an altarpiece in the Benedictine abbey at Liesborn in north-west Germany. The right-hand shutter, which shows Saints Gregory, Maurice and Augustine, is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

Saints Ambrose, Exuperius and Jerome are shown here beneath a vaulted Gothic ceiling, its structure is defined by red articulating ribs. It is probably intended to resemble a church interior. Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, appears on the left in liturgical dress, including a mitre (hat) and a crosier which, as it resembles a shepherd’s crook, symbolises his role as shepherd of Christians. Saint Exuperius is shown in armour, a reference to his role in the Theban legion of the Roman army; its members all converted to Christianity in the fourth century. They were led by Saint Maurice, who appears in the centre of the opposite shutter. Saint Jerome stands with the lion that, according to legend, became his companion after he removed a thorn from its paw.

Key facts
Artist Circle of the Master of Liesborn
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Full title Saints Ambrose, Exuperius and Jerome
Series Two Shutters from an Altarpiece
Date made about 1465-90
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 120 x 67.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG254
Location in Gallery Room 65
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Two Shutters from an Altarpiece

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These two panels once formed the shutters of an altarpiece in the Benedictine abbey in Liesborn, a town in the north-western German region of Westphalia. Placed on either side of the centrepiece, the shutters would protect and conceal it when closed.

The artist’s identity is unknown, but he has been named after the altarpiece that he made for the high altar of the same church. Several fragments of the high altarpiece are in the National Gallery’s collection.

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