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Fragments of a Confraternity Banner


Medieval and Renaissance painters worked on a wide variety of objects, not just pictures intended to be hung on walls. Here we have a rare survival of an important type of artwork from this time: a painted banner.

Banners like this were designed to be seen from a distance. They were usually around 2.5 metres high, and hung from a tall wooden cross which would be carried at the head of public processions.

Made in Milan in around 1500, the banner from which these came was possibly associated with the important confraternity of the Immaculate Conception (the belief that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin). This was set up in Milan under the sponsorship of the Franciscan Order. Behind the group of kneeling men we can see part of a figure of a saint, apparently dressed in brown robes – perhaps Saint Francis.