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Moretto da Brescia, An Adoring Angel

Key facts
Full title An Adoring Angel
Artist Moretto da Brescia
Artist dates about 1498 - 1554
Series Shutters from a Triptych
Date made about 1540
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 154 × 54.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2091
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Adoring Angel
Moretto da Brescia

This is one of four paintings of angels and saints made to decorate a pair of shutters. It was common at the time they were painted for altarpieces to have shutters to embellish and protect them. The angels would have been on the inside of the shutters and the saints on the outside. The central image these shutters would once have flanked is now missing.

The Latin inscription on the plinth beneath the angel’s feet says ‘AVE REGINA’ meaning ‘Hail Queen’. When read with the inscription beneath the other angel’s feet, the whole phrase is: AVE REGINA COELORUM (‘Hail Queen of the Heavens’). This message would have been read when the shutters were open and it suggests that the missing central image was one of the Virgin Mary crowned in the heavens.

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Shutters from a Triptych


These four paintings come from a pair of shutters that were painted on both sides. The angel facing right was originally on the reverse of the shutter painted with Saint Joseph, who has a dark beard and turban and holds a book and flowering rod. The angel facing left was on the reverse of the shutter painted with Saint Jerome, who wears an abbot’s hat and reads a book. The two shutters had been divided into four paintings by the mid-nineteenth century, probably to make them easier to display as gallery pictures.

In their original form, when the shutters were closed only Saint Joseph and Saint Jerome would have been visible. When they were open, the angels would have flanked a central image, most likely showing the Virgin Mary crowned or about to be crowned in the heavens. The shutters probably date from the end of Moretto’s career and may be by his workshop.