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Italian, Florentine, Portrait of Savonarola

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Savonarola
Artist Italian, Florentine
Date made perhaps about 1500-40
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 21.2 × 16.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Dr William Radford, 1890
Inventory number NG1301
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of Savonarola
Italian, Florentine

The identity of the tonsured friar portrayed here is made clear by the scene painted on the reverse of the panel, which records the execution of Girolamo Savonarola and his two companions. This took place in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence on 23 May 1498.

Savonarola (1452–1498) was a Dominican preacher and leader in the populist revolution in Florence during the 1490s. He preached against the tyrannical abuses of the Medici rulers of the city and had numerous followers. His crusade against impiety and luxury gained him great political power in Florence, especially during the republic established after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici and the exile of Lorenzo’s son Piero in 1494.

On the reverse of this panel, the three Dominican friars hang by their necks as a huge fire rages beneath them. This work seems to have been painted about 1500–40, perhaps based on an earlier print. The back and the front of the panel were probably painted by the same artist.

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