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Decorative Border with a Seraph and Saint Catherine
Spinello Aretino
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This fragment comes from the border decoration of a large painting in fresco – a technique that involved painting directly onto wet plaster – which showed the fall of Lucifer, the rebel angel who was cast out of heaven. It once decorated a wall of the church of the confraternity of Sant' Angelo in Arezzo. There are two other fragments in the National Gallery’s collection.

The fragment shows two figures in decorative shapes with white borders. The creature with red wings on the left is a Seraph, a type of angelic being; on the right is Saint Catherine, identifiable by the traces of a spiked wheel (she was tortured on one). Their haloes were originally gilded but now only a tin underlayer remains. The spaces between are decorated with foliage, painted to look like stone carvings.

Key facts
Artist Spinello Aretino
Artist dates born 1345-52; died 1410
Full title Decorative Border with a Seraph and Saint Catherine
Group Arezzo Fresco Fragments
Date made about 1408-10
Medium and support Fresco (with areas of secco) transferred to canvas
Dimensions 64.5 x 130 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir A.H. Layard, 1886
Inventory number NG1216.3
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Arezzo Fresco Fragments

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These three paintings are fragments of a much larger work in fresco, a technique that involved painting directly on to wet plaster. The whole image showed the fall of Lucifer, the rebel angel who was cast out of heaven and associated with the devil in Christian thought.

The fresco decorated a wall in the church of the confraternity of Sant'Angelo, Arezzo. Its original appearance is recorded in engravings and drawings made in the nineteenth century.

The large fragment shows Saint Michael the Archangel ready to strike Lucifer, while two smaller ones come from the border of the work and show a band of figures set within decorative shapes.These fragments were purchased in 1855 by the archaeologist and explorer Austen Henry Layard, and presented to the National Gallery in 1886. Layard was a founder of the Arundel Society, which aimed to document frescoes in Italian churches and palaces through drawings and art-historical descriptions.

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