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Saint Roch
Paolo Morando
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This painting of Saint Roch is one of the flanking panels of a three-panel altarpiece for S. Maria della Scala, Verona. The central panel of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Gerolamo dai Libri is also in the National Gallery’s collection, but the other flanking panel, of Saint Sebastian by Francesco di Marco India Torbido, is missing. The commission for this work was connected with an outbreak of plague from 1510 to 1512.

Saint Roch, a pilgrim with an ulcerated thigh caused by the plague, was turned out of Piacenza, but a local nobleman’s dog brought him a loaf of bread every day and licked his wounds. Here, Saint Roch turns in surprise as an angel swoops down from heaven to bless him. Roch’s hat hangs from his pilgrim staff. The crossed keys on its brim show that he has been on pilgrimage to Rome, as they are the emblem of Saint Peter whose basilica is there.

Key facts
Artist Paolo Morando
Artist dates about 1486/8 - 1522
Full title Saint Roch
Series Panels from an Altarpiece, S.Maria della Scala, Verona
Date made 1518
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 156.8 x 55.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1864
Inventory number NG735
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Panels from an Altarpiece, S.Maria della Scala, Verona

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These are two panels from a three-panel altarpiece for S. Maria della Scala, Verona. The central panel of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Gerolamo dai Libri and the flanking panel of Saint Roch by Paolo Morando are both in the National Gallery’s collection, but the other flanking panel of Saint Sebastian by Francesco di Marco India Torbido is missing. It is quite unusual for each of the three panels of a triptych to be painted by a different artist.

The commission for this work was connected with an outbreak of plague in Verona from 1510 to 1512. Roch and Sebastian are both saints invoked against plague. In the central panel, the dead dragon at the feet of the Virgin and the olive branch held by the Christ Child symbolise his triumph over the devil but may also refer to the ending of the 1516 siege of Verona.

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