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Giovanni di Nicola, Saint Anthony Abbot

Key facts
Full title Saint Anthony Abbot
Artist Giovanni di Nicola
Artist dates documented 1326; died 1363-5
Date made about 1350
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 61.5 × 36 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1924
Inventory number NG3896
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Anthony Abbot
Giovanni di Nicola

A fierce-looking old man with a fantastically curled beard glowers from a gilded background. He wears a monastic habit (a long, loose garment) – this is Anthony Abbot, the founder of Christian monasticism. He almost certainly once formed part of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) and was probably placed on the left of a central panel of the Virgin and Child.

The saint leans on a wooden staff in the shape of a tau-cross (a cross shaped like the letter T), his attribute. The Hospitallers of Saint Anthony, who looked after people affected by skin diseases, wore black robes decorated with a blue tau-cross. He holds a bound book with blue clasps, which has been rotated so we see it from an acute angle, giving an illusion of depth. The studs on the binding were drawn in but never painted.

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