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Angel (Left Hand)
Francesco Pesellino and Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
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This angel comes from a pala (an altarpiece with a single, unified surface) which was sawn into pieces in the eighteenth century but reassembled by the National Gallery in the 1930s. It was made for a confraternity of priests, and shows the Trinity (God the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost as a dove) with saints and angels.

Given its history, this fragment is in surprisingly good condition. The angel’s wings have darkened and the green robe has discoloured, so that it contrasts less with the yellow lining. The underdrawing (the preliminary outlining of a composition) for the whole panel is very detailed, and some of it is visible: look closely and you can see the drawing of the angel’s face and hair.

Key facts
Artist Francesco Pesellino and Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop
Artist dates 1422 - 1457; born about 1406; died 1469
Full title Angel (Left Hand)
Group The Pistoia Santa Trinità Altarpiece
Date made 1455-60
Medium and support Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood
Dimensions 43.5 x 61.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1917
Inventory number NG3230
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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