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Fra Angelico, Saint Romulus: Frame Panel

Key facts
Full title Saint Romulus: Frame Panel
Artist Fra Angelico
Artist dates active 1417; died 1455
Series Fiesole San Domenico Altarpiece
Date made about 1423-4
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 16 × 15.6 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lady Lindsay, 1912
Inventory number NG2908
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Romulus: Frame Panel
Fra Angelico

We can piece together who this saint is: his mitre (hat) and crosier (crook) identify him as a bishop, and a faint inscription in white paint to his right reads ‘OL VS’. The inscription on the left probably read ‘ROM’, identifying him when both sides were put together as Romulus.

This seems likely. Romulus was the patron saint of Fiesole, a town near Florence, and this panel probably came from an altarpiece made for the church of San Domenico in Fiesole. It probably decorated one of the altarpiece’s pilasters (the tall piers on either side of the construction). Another panel of exactly the same design, showing the bishop-saint Alexander, was probably its pair, appearing on the opposite pier.

The National Gallery also holds two images from the base of the pilasters and panels from the predella (the lowest part of the altarpiece).

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Fiesole San Domenico Altarpiece


These panels come from the predella (lowest part) of the altarpiece made for the high altar of San Domenico, Fiesole. Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar (a member of the religious order founded by Saint Dominic) as well as a painter. The church was attached to his own convent – so although he made two other altarpieces for it, he was not paid for his work.

Predellas usually showed narrative scenes of the lives of the saints who were depicted in the main part of the altarpiece. This one is unusual: it shows Christ in glory in heaven, surrounded in the central scene by angels. This is framed by two panels showing rows of saints and Old Testament figures. These in turn are enclosed on either side by Dominican ‘Blessed’ figures who were holy and revered but not saints.

The mass of saints includes Dominicans and reflects their interest in the saints of their order and the place of the Dominicans in the broader church.