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Giovanni Martino Spanzotti, 'Saints Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist', 1496-1500

Key facts
Full title Saints Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist
Artist Giovanni Martino Spanzotti
Artist dates active 1480 to about 1523
Series The Dal Ponte Polyptych
Date made 1496-1500
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 76.2 × 52.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1201
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saints Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist
Giovanni Martino Spanzotti

This and Saint Peter Martyr and a Bishop Saint are panels from the upper tier of the Dal Ponte Altarpiece. The altarpiece was dedicated to Saint Andrew, who featured in the central panel, and it was made for the church of San Francesco in Casale Monferrato. The other panels are in the Albertina, Turin; the Brera, Milan; and a private collection.

Saint Nicholas of Tolentino was a thirteenth-century Augustinian friar who ministered to the poor and criminals, and built a reputation as a miracle worker. He has a radiance in the centre of his chest and gazes at a crucifix. The quotation in his book is from the Gospel of John, 15: 10: PRECEPTA PATRIS MEI SERVAVI (‘I have kept my father’s commands’). Saint John the Baptist can be recognised by his traditional robe of camel skin and his scroll marked: ECCE AGNVS DEI QVI TOLLIT [PECCATA MUNDI] (‘Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’)

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The Dal Ponte Polyptych


Saints Nicholas of Tolentino and John the Baptist and Saint Peter Martyr and a Bishop Saint, both in the National Gallery’s collection, are panels from the Dal Ponte Altarpiece. It was a multi-part altarpiece and we can tell that these panels would have formed part of the upper tier because the vaulted ceiling is painted as though viewed from below. The third panel of the upper tier is in a private collection.

The altarpiece, made for the church of San Francesco in Casale Monferrato, was dedicated to Saint Andrew and he was depicted in the main panel (Brera, Milan). Saint Francis and Saint Agatha with Kneeling Donor (Accademia Albertina, Turin) was on the left of the main panel and Saints Catherine and Sebastian (Brera, Milan) was on the right. The meticulously painted luxury, humanity and sense of space in these panels show the influence of Francesco Cossa, with whom Spanzotti had worked as a young man, as well as Flemish, Burgundian and Milanese painting.