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Giorgio Schiavone, The Pietà

Key facts
Full title The Pietà
Artist Giorgio Schiavone
Artist dates 1436/7 - 1504
Series S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua
Date made probably 1456-61
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 37.5 × 26 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG630.6
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Pietà
Giorgio Schiavone

This panel shows the dead Christ, wrapped in his shroud, held upright in a marble tomb by two grieving angels. It formed part of the upper tier of a large polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece). It was painted between about 1456 and 1461 by Giorgio Schiavone for the funerary chapel of the wealthy Roberti family in the church of San Nicolò in Padua. This painting would have been at the top of the altarpiece above the Virgin and Child, also in the National Gallery’s collection.

This way of showing Christ was based on a vision Pope Gregory (about 540–604) had when celebrating Mass in the church of Santa Croce in Rome. Gregory was said to have ordered a picture of this vision to be made, and it became known as the ‘Imago Pietatis’ (‘image of pity’) or Man of Sorrows.

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S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua


This two-tier altarpiece was painted between about 1456 and 1461 for the funerary chapel of the wealthy Roberti family in the church of San Nicolò in Padua. Its altar was dedicated to the Franciscan missionary Bernardino of Siena, seen among the full-length saints in the lower tier. He was canonised in 1450, shortly before Giovanni de Roberti left funds in his will for the chapel’s construction.

Other saints were chosen for their special significance for members of the Roberti family. John the Baptist was the name saint of Giovanni de Roberti. His sons Antonio and Piero were represented by Anthony of Padua and Peter Martyr, who were also the patron saints of Padua. The altarpiece must have had an elaborate original frame, which has been lost.

The illusory label attached to the base of the Virgin’s throne in the centre panel identifies the altarpiece as the work of Giorgio Schiavone, a disciple of Francesco Squarcione. ‘Schiavone’ means ‘the Slavonian’, referring to the fact that the artist came from Dalmatia (in modern-day Croatia).