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Saint Ambrose (?)
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone
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An elderly, bearded saint, wearing a bishop’s mitre and holding a book and a crosier, gazes directly, almost challengingly, out at us. We are not sure exactly who he is. He has traditionally been identified as Saint Ambrose, the fourth-century patron of Milan, but he lacks the saint’s traditional symbol of a scourge (a multi-tongued whip).

This panel is one of two in the National Gallery’s collection which probably came from the top level of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece); to judge from the perspective you are supposed to look up at it from below.

Key facts
Artist Style of Ambrogio Bergognone
Artist dates active 1481; died 1523?
Full title Saint Ambrose (?)
Group Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made late 15th century
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 110.5 x 41.9 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3081
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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Two small saints – Saint Paul, with a sword and book, and a bishop saint, perhaps Saint Ambrose, in richly coloured and gilded robes – stand against dark backgrounds. The angle at which they are shown makes it clear they were intended to be seen from below: both probably came from the top row of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece).

We do not know who the artist was, but the style of the panels links them to the work of two important north Italian painters of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: Vincenzo Foppa and Ambrogio Bergognone. They must have been made by a less talented follower of these Lombard painters, probably in around 1480 to 1500.

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