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Lorenzo Costa, Saint Philip

Key facts
Full title Saint Philip
Artist Lorenzo Costa
Artist dates 1460 - 1535
Group The High Altarpiece from San Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza
Date made 1505
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 109.8 × 57.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1859
Inventory number NG629.3
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Philip
Lorenzo Costa

A bearded Saint Philip stands in a landscape, immersed in a book. A slender cross rests against his shoulder, with another cross attached to it where Christ’s crucified body would have been hung, a reference to Philip’s martyrdom (he was crucified upside down).

This painting was originally part of a large, multi-panelled altarpiece painted by Lorenzo Costa for the oratory of S. Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza, other parts of which are also in the National Gallery’s collection. This picture appeared next to The Virgin and Child, with Saint Paul on the other side. The steps on Philip’s left are part of the Virgin’s elaborate throne, and the delicate landscape behind him extends across these three panels.

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The High Altarpiece from San Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza


These five paintings were once part of a large multi-panel altarpiece, or polyptych, made for the high altar of the Oratory of S. Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza. It was originally topped by a horizontal panel, now lost, showing the dead Christ supported by angels.

Although the altarpiece has been dismembered and its original frame – an important part of the ensemble – is lost, we can tell how it would have been arranged by comparison with existing polyptychs and designs for them, and from the paintings themselves. The Virgin and Child evidently appeared in an arched niche: the dark curved areas to either side of the Virgin’s head would have been covered by the frame. They were flanked by Saints Peter and Philip in the lower register, with Saints John the Evangelist and John the Baptist above.

Lorenzo Costa has signed and dated the central panel in Latin, making it look like an inscription at the top of the door frame: LAURENTIUS COSTA F[ECIT] 1505.