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Right 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 this altarpiece are also in the National Gallery.

San Giovanni was a Camaldolese nunnery and the saints on its altarpieces were those who were especially important to the nuns there, or to the patrons of the altarpiece. At the top of the front of the pilaster is a monk in white – the Camaldolites wore white habits – with a tau (T-shaped) staff, the symbol of Anthony Abbot. This figure could be him, though he was more usually shown as an old man with a beard. Below him is Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with the wheel on which she was tortured, and Saint Sebastian, holding three arrows. Both were very popular saints in the fifteenth century.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Jacopo di Antonio (Master of Pratovecchio?)
Artist dates 1427 - 1454
Full title Right 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 NG584.4
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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