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Saint Alexander
Girolamo Romanino
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This painting is part of Romanino’s high altarpiece for S. Alessandro in Brescia. It is situated beside the main panel of the Nativity.

Saint Alexander was patron saint of Brescia and the church was dedicated to him. His position on the holy family’s right-hand side puts him in the place of honour, and he has a double halo. He was a local martyr, beheaded in Bergamo in about 303. He was said to have been a Roman soldier who was killed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. He is often depicted as a youthful knight holding a banner marked with a fleur-de-lis in reference to the lilies that sprang up where his blood was spilled.

The heroic and richly coloured figure of Saint Alexander expresses the strongly Venetian character of Romanino’s work. The jacket Alexander wears over his armour would originally have been half yellow and half blue but the blue pigment smalt has faded to grey.

Key facts
Artist Girolamo Romanino
Artist dates about 1484 - about 1560
Full title Saint Alexander
Group High Altarpiece, S. Alessandro, Brescia
Date made about 1524
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 159.5 x 64.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG297.2
Location in Gallery Room 2
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High Altarpiece, S. Alessandro, Brescia

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Romanino made this painting for the high altar of Sant' Alessandro in Brescia. It may have been commissioned by the Confraternity of Corpus Christi – a lay brotherhood which venerated the body of Christ – who were responsible for the high altar.

The central panel shows the Nativity, with Mary and Joseph kneeling before the infant Christ. On either side, panels depict Saint Alexander (lower left) and Saint Jerome (lower right). Above them are Saint Gaudioso (upper left) and Saint Filippo Benizzi (upper right.)

The painting originally had a crowning panel of the dead Saviour supported by the Virgin and Saint John. It also had large canvas shutters to protect it – The Annunciation was painted on the outside of the shutters, and on the inside was The Adoration of the Magi. The elaborate frame of the altarpiece, made by the woodcarver Stefano Lamberti, which would have formed a fundamental part of it, is now missing.

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