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Giorgio Schiavone, A Female Saint

Key facts
Full title A Female Saint
Artist Giorgio Schiavone
Artist dates 1436/7 - 1504
Series S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua
Date made probably about 1456-61
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 32.5 × 25 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG630.10
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Female Saint
Giorgio Schiavone

A female saint clasps a martyr’s palm and a richly bound book. We don't know who she was meant to be, but her wrinkled skin shows that she was no longer young. Although her clothing is restrained she is dressed as a laywoman, not a nun, and was clearly well educated: in medieval art books were symbols of learning.

This painting is from the upper level of a large polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) painted by Giorgio Schiavone, possibly for the church of San Niccolò in Padua. Other panels from the altarpiece are also in our collection. We are not sure what order they were in originally but this lady must have been on the right, looking inwards.

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S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua


These ten panels once made up a polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) painted by Giorgio Schiavone, probably between 1456 and 1461. They were perhaps originally made for the chapel of the Frigimelina family in the church of San Niccolò in Padua.

In the fifteenth century the chapel may have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as she appears in the middle with saints on either side. We don‘t know exactly how the panels were arranged, but the full-length saints would have been in the bottom layer with the half-length figures above; this was a very popular format for Italian polyptychs. The altarpiece may well have had an elaborate frame, now missing.

The artist’s real name was Juraj Čulinović. Schiavone means ’Slavonian': he came from Dalmatia (in modern-day Croatia) but trained in Squarcione’s workshop in Padua in the late 1450s, when these panels were painted.