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Gherardo di Jacopo Starnina (Master of the Bambino Vispo), 'The Beheading of Saint Margaret (?)', probably about 1409

Key facts
Full title The Beheading of Saint Margaret (?)
Artist Gherardo di Jacopo Starnina (Master of the Bambino Vispo)
Artist dates about 1364 - 1413
Date made probably about 1409
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 42.3 × 65.2 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3926
Location Gallery F
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Beheading of Saint Margaret (?)
Gherardo di Jacopo Starnina (Master of the Bambino Vispo)

The small size and rectangular shape of this panel indicate that it once formed part of a predella – that is the lowest section of an altarpiece. Predellas usually illustrated events from the lives of the saints depicted in the main section of the altarpiece. The saint who is about to be beheaded here, for her Christian faith, has been identified as Saint Margaret of Antioch. This is on account of the cross-shape she has formed with her thumbs as she prays, which may refer to the legend that Saint Margaret fought off the devil – in the form of a dragon – by making the sign of the cross with her hands. Her legend also recounts that she asked to pray before her execution. Starnina, a Florentine painter, has chosen to show the moment at which the executioner is just about to strike. This panel has been connected to an altarpiece in the Martin von Wagner Museum in Würzburg which includes a panel showing Saint Margaret of Antioch, who is shown with a slain dragon at her feet, with Saint Philip.

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