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Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, An Angel in Red with a Lute

Key facts
Full title An Angel in Red with a Lute
Artist Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis
Artist dates about 1455 - 1510
Series Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan
Date made about 1495-9
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 118.8 × 61 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1898
Inventory number NG1662
Location Gallery B
Collection Main Collection
An Angel in Red with a Lute
Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis

This angel is a pair to another in the National Gallery’s collection. Both were part of a large altarpiece made for the church of San Francesco Grande in Milan that included Leonardo’s ‘Virgin of the Rocks’, which is also in our collection. They were made to surround a sculpture of the Virgin Mary which stood above Leonardo’s picture.

Ambrogio de Predis and Leonardo were both named on the contract for the altarpiece which specifically asked for angels playing music. Here the angel plays a lute but looks distracted, apparently focusing on the statue of the Virgin Mary instead. The grey niche he stands in is a later addition.

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Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan


These three panels all came from an elaborate, and partly sculpted, altarpiece that was made for the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. By the time that Leonardo and his associates were commissioned to provide paintings in 1483, the sculptor Giacomo del Maiano had already finished the sculptures.

The altarpiece stood in a chapel devoted to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary that belonged to a confraternity (religious group) devoted to the Immaculate Conception. The two angels playing musical instruments probably stood on either side of a large sculpture of the Virgin. Leonardo’s painting, which was probably supposed to represent the Immaculate Conception, was placed directly beneath the sculpture.

The National Gallery’s painting is Leonardo’s second version of the picture. It was probably made to replace one (now in the Louvre, Paris) that Leonardo sold because the confraternity refused to pay him adequately for it.