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Giovanni Bilivert, Saint Zenobius revives a Dead Boy

Key facts
Full title Saint Zenobius revives a Dead Boy
Artist Giovanni Bilivert
Artist dates 1585 - 1644
Date made probably 1610-20
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 205 × 164.4 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by George Salting, 1889
Inventory number NG1282
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Zenobius revives a Dead Boy
Giovanni Bilivert

A bearded bishop stands over a child lying in a street, his mother kneeling at his side. This is Saint Zenobius – the fourth-century bishop of Florence and one of the city’s patron saints – bringing a boy back to life.

This large altarpiece was painted for Bilivert’s great friend Giuliano Girolami, a member of a prominent banking family which claimed to be descended from Zenobius.

This particular miracle was a favourite with Florentine patrons, and had been portrayed by numerous earlier artists. Bilivert reduced the story to its essentials, representing it with the luminous colours and intense emotionalism typical of Italian Baroque painting. Faced with the threat of Protestantism, Catholic patrons and artists sought to glorify the reinvigorated Counter-Reformation Church, and to convey the miracles of its saints in the clearest possible fashion. Here the sacred is brought vividly to life – miracles can happen in the streets of Florence.

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