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Italian, Venetian (?), An Apostle, Saint, Prophet or Sage

Key facts
Full title An Apostle, Saint, Prophet or Sage
Artist Italian, Venetian (?)
Date made probably late 16th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 152 × 116.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Cavaliere Vallati, 1855
Inventory number NG272
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Apostle, Saint, Prophet or Sage
Italian, Venetian (?)

This picture is a fragment of a larger painting for the spandrel of an arch (the triangular area beside the arch). There would have been another figure in a complementary pose on the other side of the arch. The painting consists of five separate pieces of canvas, which were probably originally glued to a wooden support. The architectural elements were probably painted by a specialist and then joined to the piece with the figure when the picture was put in place.

The proportions of the figure, the projecting knee and the scale and breadth of the painting style suggest that the picture was intended to be placed very high up where small details would not have be seen. It may have been placed over an arch at the entrance to a chapel.

The unidentified figure looks down and clasps a round shaft, possibly part of a large key or staff. He may be a prophet or ancestor of Christ from an Old Testament story, which would have prefigured the New Testament subject matter in the chapel below.

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