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Piero della Francesca, Saint Michael

Key facts
Full title Saint Michael
Artist Piero della Francesca
Artist dates about 1415/20 - 1492
Date made completed 1469
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 133 × 59.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG769
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Michael
Piero della Francesca

The Archangel Michael led an army of angels to battle against the devil and cast him down from heaven (Revelation 12: 9). Piero shows him as a beautiful, youthful soldier. He clutches the severed head of the devil, represented as a snake with pointy ears.

The panel was part of a polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) made for the church of Sant‘Agostino in Piero’s hometown of Borgo Sansepolcro. It was placed to the immediate left of the central panel, now lost, which depicted the Virgin and Child. The lower right corner of the panel includes part of the step of the Virgin’s throne and part of her cloth of gold cloak. The other side panels are in collections around the world.

Michael may have been included to honour the patron, Angelo di Giovanni. The archangel was very popular with the citizens of Sansepolcro, who made pilgrimages to Monte Sant’ Angelo in southern Italy, where he was thought to have appeared miraculously.

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