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Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Key facts
Full title The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
Artist Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Artist dates about 1459/60 - about 1517/18
Date made about 1502-4
Medium and support Oil on synthetic panel, transferred from poplar
Dimensions 294 × 199.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1870
Inventory number NG816
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano

The rich colours of this large painting were designed to make maximum impact. Commissioned by a confraternity dedicated to Saint Thomas, it shows the moment that the doubting saint was convinced of Christ’s resurrection. We see him place his fingers in Christ’s wound, checking that Christ had indeed risen from the dead.

The confraternity’s accounts and minutes tell us a great deal about how the painting was made. The governing committee voted to commission an altarpiece for their altar in the church of San Francesco at Portogruaro, on the Venetian mainland, on 28 May 1497. Payments to Cima da Conegliano are recorded from 1502, though he may well have begun work on it before this.

In 1504 the altarpiece was reported as nearly ready but deliberately left unfinished by the artist as he had not been paid. It was completed and installed later that year, although Cima was still owed more than half his fee. He eventually resorted to legal action and wasn't paid in full until 1509.

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