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Left Pilaster of an Altarpiece
Probably by Jacopo di Antonio (Master of Pratovecchio?)
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These saints come from a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) painted in about 1450 for the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Pratovecchio, Tuscany. Other parts of the altarpiece are also in the National Gallery.

San Giovanni was a Camaldolese nunnery, and the saints included are those who were important to the nuns there. At the top we see Saint Benedict, author of the Benedictine Rule (the regulations of his religious order) which the Camaldolites followed. In the centre is a pope, possibly Gregory the Great. At the bottom there’s a bearded monk in white, probably Saint Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese order. Benedict and Romuald both wear white, as did the Camaldolites.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Jacopo di Antonio (Master of Pratovecchio?)
Artist dates 1427 - 1454
Full title Left Pilaster of an Altarpiece
Group Pratovecchio Altarpiece
Date made about 1450?
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 115.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG584.3
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Pratovecchio Altarpiece

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This altarpiece is a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) but parts of it are missing. The two halves were not originally next to each other, but were on either side of a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin formerly in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, in Pratovecchio, Tuscany.

The whole altarpiece once stood on a side altar in the Camaldolese nunnery of San Giovanni. Very unusually we know quite a lot about its commissioning. In June 1400 one Michele di Antonio Vaggi, a Camaldolese monk, made a will asking his mother Johanna to found a chapel at San Giovanni, for which she was to provide a ‘tavola picta’ (a painted altarpiece).

Both Johanna and Michele’s patron saints appear in the main panels, with Camaldolese saints in the pinnacles. This is presumably the altarpiece made for their family chapel, although it wasn't painted until the 1450s.

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