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Saints Raphael and Tobias: Roundel above Right Panel
Giovanni dal Ponte
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In this small, circular painting a young boy holds a fish in one hand and clasps the hand of an angel with the other. This is the story of Tobias and the angel: Tobias caught a large fish in the Tigris and was advised by the Archangel Raphael to keep its internal organs as a cure for his father’s blindness.

The picture comes from a large polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) painted in the 1420s by the Florentine artist Giovanni dal Ponte, which sat on the high altar of the church of the Camaldolese nunnery of San Giovanni Evangelista at Pratovecchio in Tuscany. Several of its panels are now in the National Gallery’s collection.

Key facts
Artist Giovanni dal Ponte
Artist dates about 1385 - 1437
Full title Saints Raphael and Tobias: Roundel above Right Panel
Group Ascension of John the Evangelist Altarpiece
Date made about 1420-4?
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 13.4 x 13.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG580.8
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Ascension of John the Evangelist Altarpiece

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This large, gilded polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) is one of the few almost complete early Renaissance altarpieces in the National Gallery’s collection. It was made for the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, in Pratovecchio, Tuscany, probably in the 1420s.

Altarpieces on the high altar had to show the saint to whom the church was dedicated. Here, in the centre panel, we see Saint John the Evangelist being raised to heaven by Christ. A crowd of saints seems to watch from the large panels on either side.

The nuns at Pratovecchio were Camaldolites – a small, strict religious order found mainly in Italy – and the saints on the altarpiece would have been those who were important to them. This is one of the few surviving paintings of this date which might well have been commissioned by women – two abbesses – for the use of women.

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