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Ugolino di Nerio, Spandrel Angels

Key facts
Full title Spandrel Angels
Artist Ugolino di Nerio
Artist dates documented 1317-27; died possibly 1329
Series The Santa Croce Altarpiece
Date made possibly 1325-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 27.5 × 56.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1983
Inventory number NG6486
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Spandrel Angels
Ugolino di Nerio

These angels were once part of a large altarpiece made for the church of Santa Croce, Florence, where Franciscan friars – members of the religious order founded by Saint Francis – had a convent. A Franciscan friar and saint, Louis of Toulouse, was pictured on the main tier.

The image of the saint is now lost, but it was framed by a painted arch within a rectangular panel. The gaps on either side of the arch, called spandrels, were filled with these angels.

An eighteenth-century drawing shows the altarpiece when it was still in the convent at Santa Croce. The image of Saint Louis of Toulouse was not in bad condition at that time, so it is unclear why the angels were detached from it.

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The Santa Croce Altarpiece


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.