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A Youthful Saint Reading
Girolamo da Santacroce
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This and A Saint with a Fortress and Banner, also in the National Gallery’s collection, are panels from an altarpiece. We do not know the church for which they were painted.

A Youthful Saint reading has previously been identified as John the Evangelist, who is frequently depicted as a young fair-haired man dressed in green and red reading the Gospel of John. However, this identification is not certain. He appears to be standing high on a parapet as the horizon is below the level of his waist, and he is set against a great expanse of sky. In the landscape of grassy hills and woodland, a small tower peeps through the trees and a weary traveller with a staff rests on his pack beside the road.

The contemplative mood of the painting and the grassy landscape, treatment of the drapery and rich colour palette are all reminiscent of the late style of Giovanni Bellini, with whom the artist may have worked as an assistant.

Key facts
Artist Girolamo da Santacroce
Artist dates active 1516; died 1556?
Full title A Youthful Saint Reading
Group Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made probably about 1512-25
Medium and support Oil on poplar, transferred from another panel
Dimensions 118.7 x 47.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG632
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two unidentified saints are panels from an altarpiece. Originally, they would probably have flanked a central image, perhaps of the Virgin and Child. We do not know for which church the altarpiece was painted. The panels show the influence of the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini’s late style in their grassy pastoral landscapes, cloud-streaked skies, rich colour palettes, simplified forms and contemplative mood.

A Youthful Saint reading has previously been identified as John the Evangelist, who is frequently depicted as a young fair-haired man dressed in green and red reading the Gospel of John, however this identification is not certain. The identity of the saint in the other panel is also unclear: although he holds the cross of Saint George, he does not wear armour and is not accompanied by a dragon as is usual in depictions of Saint George. He may represent a local patron saint, perhaps Terentius, the patron saint of Pesaro.

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