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Adoring Saints: Left Main Tier Panel
Lorenzo Monaco
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A group of saints dressed in glowing colours cluster on an elaborately decorated floor. This large painting was part of a complex polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) painted for the Camaldolese monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence.

They look at the coronation of the Virgin, which appeared at the centre of the altarpiece. Although the paintings are now separate, they were originally on a single panel (you can just see, on the far right, the wings of angels who surround the Virgin’s throne).

These are saints who were important to the monks at San Benedetto. Saint Benedict, in the front row, has a book inscribed with words from his Rule (religious regulations), which the Camaldolites followed; he also wears white, as did they. Beside him, in a pink robe over a hair tunic, is Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, then Saint Matthew, whose book has words from his Gospel.

Key facts
Artist Lorenzo Monaco
Artist dates active 1399; died 1423 or 1424
Full title Adoring Saints: Left Main Tier Panel
Series San Benedetto Altarpiece
Date made 1407-9
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 194.5 x 104.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by William Coningham, 1848
Inventory number NG215
Location in Gallery Room 60
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San Benedetto Altarpiece

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A glorious, glowing, multi-coloured company of saints and angels surround Christ and his mother as he delicately places a golden crown on her head, making her Queen of Heaven. This huge polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) was painted for the high altar of the monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence. It was originally even bigger: its main panels are in the National Gallery, but other parts are scattered in collections across the world.

The Camaldolites (a religious order founded in 1012) were famous for their strict lifestyle, although they lived among great visual riches. The monastery’s register records how it was commissioned by a Florentine citizen, Luca Pieri Rinieri Berri, who was to pay almost the entire cost. In recompense his name was painted on the altarpiece – a few letters can be made out on the grey step of dais – so that he would be remembered in the monks' prayers.

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