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Adoring Saints: Right Main Tier Panel
Lorenzo Monaco
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A company of richly dressed saints, their gilded haloes stamped with elaborate patterns, gaze at something on their right, or turn to talk to each other. This painting is part of a large multi-panelled altarpiece made for the Camaldolite monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence and they are looking at an image of the coronation of the Virgin (also in the National Gallery’s collection). Arranged in three tiers, they are carefully structured so that their gestures and colours balance and echo those in the facing panel, giving the whole altarpiece an almost musical harmony.

The saints here would have been well known to the monks of San Benedetto. At the very front is Saint Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese Order, wearing the white habit of the Camaldolites. Next to him, dressed in yellow and blue and holding a large key, is Saint Peter, the first pope and founder of the Catholic Church.

Key facts
Artist Lorenzo Monaco
Artist dates active 1399; died 1423 or 1424
Full title Adoring Saints: Right Main Tier Panel
Series San Benedetto Altarpiece
Date made 1407-9
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 197.2 x 101.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by William Coningham, 1848
Inventory number NG216
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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