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Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop, Saint Sabinus before the Roman Governor of Tuscany

Key facts
Full title Saint Sabinus before the Roman Governor of Tuscany
Artist Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
Artist dates active possibly 1306; died probably 1348
Date made 1335-42
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 37.7 × 33.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Charles Fairfax Murray, 1882
Inventory number NG1113
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Sabinus before the Roman Governor of Tuscany
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop

In the 1330s the Sienese city council commissioned four altarpieces showing scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the city’s protector, to decorate the cathedral. This panel by Pietro Lorenzetti, one of the city’s most important artists, comes from the altarpiece dedicated to the birth of the Virgin which was placed upon the altar of Saint Sabinus, one of the city’s patron saints.

The scene comes from the lower part of the altarpiece, called the predella. It shows the moment, according to legend, that the saint smashed a pagan idol – the small goddess in white robes – in order to demonstrate the powerlessness of Roman deities. Sabinus was thought, mistakenly, to be the first Bishop of Siena. Here he is shown wearing a bishop’s mitre, accompanied by his two deacons who were tortured to death as punishment for his act. Eventually, however, Sabinus converted the Roman Governor, Venustianus, seated on the right on a regal stool made to resemble twisted lion’s forms. Both men were martyred for their faith.

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