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Seven Saints
Fra Filippo Lippi
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Seven saints – all patron saints of members of Florence’s ruling family, the Medici – talk and interact as though Lippi was painting an animated portrait of a group of historical figures.

On the far left is Saint Francis. His meditation on the suffering of Christ was so profound that he developed the wounds of the Crucifixion; here they emit rays of heavenly light. Furthest right is Saint Peter Martyr, the knife in his skull a reminder of how he was killed.

At the centre, Saint John the Baptist is seated between Saints Cosmas and Damian. The little golden boxes on the ledge behind these two are medicine boxes: they were doctors. Next to them are Saint Lawrence, to the left, and Saint Anthony Abbot, to the right. Saint Lawrence was burnt to death on a grill, which became his symbol – it rests against the bench by his side.

Key facts
Artist Fra Filippo Lippi
Artist dates born about 1406; died 1469
Full title Seven Saints
Group Medici (Overdoor?) Panels
Date made about 1450-3
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 68 x 152.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1861
Inventory number NG667
Location in Gallery Room 59
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Medici (Overdoor?) Panels

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These panels were made for a member of Florence’s ruling family, the Medici, and once hung in the Palazzo Medici. One panel shows the Annunciation (when the Virgin Mary was told she would conceive a son, Jesus Christ); the other, a gathering of patron saints of the Medici family. The panels are similar in size, scale and viewpoint, suggesting that they were designed as a pair, and were intended to hang where they could be viewed together.

They may have been placed over the doors of Piero de' Medici’s study – its ceiling was decorated with ceramic roundels representing the signs of the zodiac (and, therefore, the months). The Annunciation suits such a setting: its feast was celebrated on 25 March, the first day of the Florentine calendar year. Depicting Medici patron saints may have been a way to demonstrate the protection they offered to the city throughout the year.

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