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David
Ugolino di Nerio
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This is part of a large multi-panelled altarpiece made for the high altar of the church of Santa Croce, Florence. It is a pinnacle panel (from the uppermost section of the altarpiece). There are two other pinnacle panels in our collection, as well as panels from other tiers.

The crowned figure in an ermine-lined cloak is King David, who appears in the Old Testament. He makes a blessing gesture with his right hand and holds a scroll in his left. It bears a damaged Latin inscription, translated as: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne’ (Psalm 132: 11). These words are a promise from God to David – who was traditionally thought to be the author of the Psalms – that his dynasty would be long and fruitful. Jesus Christ was thought to be descended from David, which gave him a royal, and divinely blessed, lineage (Matthew 1: 1–17).

Key facts
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Full title David
Group The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 55.2 x 31.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1983
Inventory number NG6485
Location in Gallery Room 52
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The Santa Croce Altarpiece

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These panels were once part of a large altarpiece which adorned the high altar of the church of Santa Croce in Florence. It focused on the Passion of Christ (his torture and crucifixion) and the Resurrection – an appropriate theme, as the church was dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Drawings made in the late eighteenth century show how it was arranged originally. There were four tiers of images: the main tier had a central image of the Virgin and Child flanked by images of the saints within arches, which were decorated with angels (there are two sets of these in the National Gallery’s collection).

Above was a row of saints framed in pairs; we hold two pairs. The uppermost tier consisted of six pinnacle panels, three on either side of a central image which probably showed the Crucifixion, itself topped by an image of Christ making a blessing gesture. The predella (the lowest layer) consisted of seven scenes showing Christ’s suffering and death; we have four of these.

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