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Saint Mamas in Prison thrown to the Lions
Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
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A young saint has been locked up with four lions. This is Saint Mamas of Caesarea, a Greek martyr who was tortured and executed for his faith by the Roman Emperor Aurelian. According to his legend he was imprisoned and then thrown to lions – although not at the same time, as here.

This is one of five scenes from the predella, the bottom tier, of the Pistoia Santa Trinità altarpiece, begun by Pesellino and finished after his death in 1457 by Fra Filippo Lippi. The predella is thought to be Lippi’s work.

Saint Mamas is very rarely shown in Tuscan painting. He was included here at the special request of Pero ser Landi, the treasurer of the confraternity of priests who commissioned the altarpiece, who was especially devoted to him.

Key facts
Artist Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
Artist dates born about 1406; died 1469
Full title Saint Mamas in Prison thrown to the Lions: Predella Panel
Group The Pistoia Santa Trinità Altarpiece
Date made 1455-60
Medium and support Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood
Dimensions 27 x 39.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mr and Mrs Felix M. Warburg through the Art Fund, 1937
Inventory number NG4868.1
Location in Gallery Room 59
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The Pistoia Santa Trinità Altarpiece

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This large altarpiece – one of the few in the National Gallery which is almost complete – has had an eventful life. It was commissioned in 1455 from the Florentine painter Francesco Pesellino, and is his only surviving documented work. He died in 1457 and it was finished by Fra Filippo Lippi and his workshop. We know a lot about how and why it was made from the records of the confraternity who commissioned it.

From 1465 it sat on the high altar of the church of the Holy Trinity at Pistoia, but in 1793 the confraternity was suppressed and the altarpiece was taken apart, with the main panel sawn into pieces, and dispersed. Most of it was gradually acquired by the National Gallery and the altarpiece reassembled.

This is the earliest pala (an altarpiece with a single main panel) in the National Gallery.

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