Giovanni da Milano, The Apocalyptic Christ (Son of Man): Central Pinnacle Panel
The three panels belonged to an altarpiece that was possibly made for the church of San Salvatore al Vescovo, the Bishop of Florence’s church, located within the Palazzo Arcivescovile. They are pinnacle panels – those appearing at the top, crowning the altarpiece.
The central pinnacle shows the ‘Apocalyptic Christ’, the judge of humanity at the end of the world, according to the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1: 13–18). This would have been flanked by panels that show the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist, who turn inwards to look towards Christ. Both figures were traditionally seen as intercessors for humanity at this moment of judgement, making their presence here, surrounding Christ as judge, appropriate.
These three panels entered our collection attached to the top of Niccolò di Pietro Gerini’s altarpiece featuring the baptism of Christ. While they would have appeared at the top of an altarpiece, as the crowning pinnacle panels, they did not originally belong to that work.
These three panels share an apocalyptic theme – that is, they relate to the Last Judgement of humanity at the end of the world. Christ is shown as the ‘Apocalyptic Christ’, reflecting how he appears in the Book of Revelation, the Bible text that describes the events that will occur at this moment (Revelation 1: 13–18).
This central image would have been flanked by panels showing the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist, turning inwards to look towards Christ. Both figures were traditionally seen as intercessors for humanity at the Last Judgement, so their presence here, surrounding Christ as judge, is appropriate. At some point before the picture came into our collection, John’s scroll was repainted with a text from the book of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. But it is definitely John the Baptist: the figure wears a camel-hair tunic, one of the saint’s identifying features.
Our panels have been associated with four others from the same altarpiece which survive in collections in Italy and America. There’s a central image of Christ seated on a throne, surrounded by angels, and a large panel that would have been placed on its left, showing 11 saints looking towards him. Two small rectangular panels from the predella have also been identified. One, most likely the central panel, shows Christ resurrected and standing upon his tomb; there’s a scene of him appearing to Saint Peter on the left while his appearance to Mary Magdalene is on the right. The right-hand panel shows him appearing to a group of disciples, among them Thomas, who doubted Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Several clues within the picture suggest that it was made for the church of San Salvatore al Vescovo, the Bishop of Florence’s church, in the Palazzo Arcivescovile. Christ in the central panel is shown seated on a stool decorated with lions' heads, the symbol of papal – and episcopal – authority. Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, features prominently in the front row wearing a bishop’s stole; he also is shown in the predella. This makes sense given Peter’s position, but also because Florence’s bishop from 1362 to 1369 – around the time this altarpiece was made – was Pietro Corsini.