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Fragments of Shutters from the St Bertin Altarpiece


These two paintings – The Soul of Saint Bertin carried up to God and A Choir of Angels – were once the upper parts of the wings of an elaborate altarpiece that was made for the high altar of the abbey church of St Bertin at Saint-Omer in northern France. It was commissioned by Guillaume Fillastre, Abbot of St Bertin, and was consecrated in 1459.

The wings are thought to have been painted at Valenciennes, where Simon Marmion was almost certainly the leading painter; he had moved there from Amiens between 1454 and 1458. The main parts of the wings are now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. On the inside these show Fillastre himself with scenes from the life of Saint Bertin. The central section is known only from written descriptions, but was in the shape of an inverted ‘T’ and was made of gold, gilded silver and copper, rock crystal, diamonds and other precious stones.