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Christ and Eight Apostles (Saints Philip to Bartholomew)
Dalmatian/Venetian
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This panel is part of the predella (lowest section) of a large altarpiece. The altarpiece’s central panel shows the Virgin and Child, and panels on either side show narrative scenes of the lives of saints.

The original predella showed Christ in the centre, surrounded by the 12 apostles, his followers; here, we see eight of them. Christ is third from the right, shown head on, his hand held high in a gesture of blessing. He holds an open book, inscribed in Latin with words from John’s Gospel: ‘I am the light of the world, the way, the truth and the life.'

The apostles hold scrolls; some also carry symbols associated with their lives or the way in which they were tortured for their Christian beliefs. Saint Peter, for example, holds keys because Christ said he would give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Two other small sections show the four missing apostles.

Key facts
Artist Dalmatian/Venetian
Full title Christ and Eight Apostles (Saints Philip to Bartholomew)
Group Altarpiece of the Virgin Mary
Date made about 1400
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 14 x 124.5 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by H.E. Luxmoore, 1927
Inventory number NG4250.6
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Altarpiece of the Virgin Mary

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This altarpiece is a unique example in the National Gallery’s collection of a work made by a late medieval artist working on both sides of the Adriatic, the sea between Italy and the Balkan coast. The picture may be one of the earliest painted representations of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (the Virgin being conceived without sin). This was a controversial idea in this period. It was not officially included in Catholic theology until the nineteenth century, but it was celebrated in the fifteenth century, on 8 December.

The central panel showing the Virgin and Child includes celestial bodies – the sun, moon and stars – that became associated with the Immaculate Conception. The left side panels show the story of the Virgin’s miraculous birth to a couple who could not have children; the right side panels shows two miracles of the Virgin.

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