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Saint Zeno exorcising the Daughter of Gallienus
Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
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A bishop saint – Saint Zeno, Bishop of Verona in the fourth century – is exorcising a demon from a young girl; you can see the little black figure jumping out of her mouth. Her parents watch anxiously. Her father, wearing a crown, kneels beside her: he is Emperor Gallienus. According to Zeno’s legend, after the saint drove this demon out the emperor allowed Zeno and all other Christians freedom to follow their religion in the Roman Empire.

This is one of five scenes from the predella, the bottom tier, of the Pistoia Santa Trinità Altarpiece, also in the National Gallery. It was made for a confraternity of priests in Pistoia (Zeno was patron of Pistoia Cathedral). The altarpiece was begun by Pesellino and completed after his death in 1457 by Fra Filippo Lippi – the predella scenes are probably by Lippi.

Key facts
Artist Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
Artist dates born about 1406; died 1469
Full title Saint Zeno exorcising the Daughter of the Emperor Gallienus: Predella Panel
Group The Pistoia Santa Trinità Altarpiece
Date made 1455-60
Medium and support Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood
Dimensions 27.5 x 39 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mr and Mrs Felix M. Warburg through the Art Fund, 1937
Inventory number NG4868.3
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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