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Saints Michael and John the Baptist
Probably by Jacopo di Antonio (Master of Pratovecchio?)
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Two saints – one with wings leaning casually on a sword, the other wearing an animal skin – stand in a Gothic arch. On the left is Saint Michael the Archangel, leader of the heavenly army, with Saint John the Baptist on the right. They come from a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) painted in Florence around 1450 for the Camaldolese nunnery of San Giovanni Evangelista in Pratovecchio, Tuscany.

Saints were popular in medieval altarpieces as they were believed to be able to intercede with God, and patrons included the saints who were important to them personally. Here Michael and John are the patron saints of the altarpiece’s commissioners, a mother and son named Michele and Johanna, who founded a family chapel at San Giovanni.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Jacopo di Antonio (Master of Pratovecchio?)
Artist dates 1427 - 1454
Full title Saints Michael and John the Baptist: Main Tier Left Panel
Group Pratovecchio Altarpiece
Date made about 1450?
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 94 x 49.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG584.1
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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