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Spandrel Angels
Ugolino di Nerio
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These angels came from a large multi-panelled altarpiece made for the high altar of the church of Santa Croce, Florence, where Franciscan friars – members of the religious order founded by Saint Francis – had a convent. They appeared on the upper part of a panel (now lost) which showed Saint Francis, and which sat in the main tier of the altarpiece.

An eighteenth-century drawing shows the altarpiece when it was still in the convent at Santa Croce; the image of Saint Francis was very badly damaged. It is likely that it was discarded but the angels were saved because they were in better condition.

Key facts
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Full title Spandrel Angels
Series The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 28.7 x 57.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1919
Inventory number NG3378
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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