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Style of Ambrogio Bergognone, Saint Paul

Key facts
Full title Saint Paul
Artist Style of Ambrogio Bergognone
Artist dates active 1481; died 1523?
Series Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made late 15th century
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 110.5 × 41.9 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3080
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Paul
Style of Ambrogio Bergognone

A bearded saint stands reading a book, his left hand resting on a sword, in this quietly contemplative picture. We know, from his dark hair and beard and from the objects he holds, that this is Saint Paul: the sword is the weapon with which he was martyred and the book represents his many writings.

This small panel is one of two in our collection which probably came from the top level of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece). They were painted in the later years of the fifteenth century by a follower of the great Lombard artists Vincenzo Foppa and Ambrogio Bergognone.

Saint Paul was largely responsible for establishing the Christian Church in the decades after Christ’s death. He initially persecuted Christians, but was dramatically converted to the new faith on the road to Ephesus. He wrote a considerable (though debated) number of the books of the New Testament – hence the book he holds here.

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Two Panels from an Altarpiece


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.