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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two panels show episodes from the life of Saint Giles, a seventh-century hermit who was enormously popular in medieval France. They once formed part of the folding wings of a large polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece). Two more of its panels are in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

When the altarpiece was open it showed scenes from lives of several saints, many with French royal connections, set in Paris churches. On the back were saints painted in tones of grey to look like statues.

We don't know exactly how the panels were originally arranged or where the altarpiece was originally located, or even who the artist was. However, he was probably working in Paris in around 1500, as in these paintings, the clothes worn by the laity (people who are not church officials) were in fashion in the first years of the sixteenth century.

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