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Circle of the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Cologne), Saint Lawrence before the Prefect

Key facts
Full title Saint Lawrence showing the Prefect the Treasures of the Church
Artist Circle of the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Cologne)
Artist dates active late 15th/early 16th century
Date made about 1510
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 130.2 × 92.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Henry Howorth, through the Art Fund, in memory of Lady Howorth, 1922.
Inventory number NG3665
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Lawrence before the Prefect
Circle of the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Cologne)

Saint Lawrence, a deacon in the early Christian church in Rome, was executed in AD 258 by the pagan Roman authorities; this painting tells the story of the events that led to his martyrdom.

The Roman prefect Decius ordered Lawrence to hand over the treasures belonging to the Church. Having already distributed these riches among the city’s poor, he gathered them instead, claiming that they were the Church’s greatest treasures. Lawrence, shown here with a large gilded halo and wearing his deacon’s robes, looks towards Decius and gestures towards the people at the bottom of the steps. The group includes a man in ragged robes, perhaps a beggar, and a woman breastfeeding her baby; in the background a disabled man moves towards the group, supported by crutches.

This painting is the fourth in a series of probably seven scenes of the life of Saint Lawrence. It is presumed that they were made for the church of Saint Lawrence in Cologne, but this is not certain.

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