This little scene was once hidden on the inside of a cupboard door – damage on the left hand border shows that there was once a door hinge there. Its reverse – the front of the door – is decorated with abstract patterns.
The story tells how the Blessed Reginald, once the dean to the Bishop of Orleans, became a Dominican friar (a member of the religious order founded by Saint Dominic). Saint Dominic is shown on the right of the column, praying before a vision of the Virgin Mary and two beautiful young women. He is praying for the speedy recovery of Reginald, shown to the left in his sickbed.
The Virgin Mary and the two women also appeared to Reginald and healed him with ointment. They offer him the habit of the Dominican Order which he accepted, joining them.
This panel has an unusual origin: it once decorated the inside of a cupboard door. Damage on the left border shows signs there was once a hinge there. The story it tells – that of the Blessed Reginald – is divided into two parts but seems to take place in he same room; the spaces are separated by a column. Reginald was venerated after his death for his holiness (which is why he gained the title Blessed). Some of the so-called Blessed eventually became saints.
Reginald’s legend is told in written accounts of the life of Saint Dominic that date from the thirteenth century. Reginald was the dean to the Bishop of Orléans and travelled to Rome in 1218. When he arrived, he heard about the religious order founded by Saint Dominic – the Dominican Order – and asked to meet him. While he was there he fell ill and Dominic prayed to the Virgin for his recovery; we see him in prayer at the right of the panel. While he prayed he had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who appeared to him with two young women at her side. The Virgin holds out the habit (uniform) of the Dominicans.
On the left of the panel we see Reginald, confined to his sickbed, confronted by the Virgin Mary and the two young women. One holds a jar of ointment and the other anoints him with it. According to the legend, the Virgin offered him whatever he wished but one of the young women told him to submit instead to her will. The Virgin holds out the Order’s black and white habit to him – encouraging him to join the Dominicans. Reginald’s gesture of prayer emphasises his submission to his heavenly visitors: he did become a member of the Order.
The other side (the ‘reverse’) was probably the front of the door, which, when opened, revealed the scene within. It’s painted to resemble marble bordered with a pattern of triangles and circles, which would have transformed the wooden cupboard into something that looked more luxurious. The panel has been cut down at the top and bottom edge; it was probably once joined to other similar scenes, so that the entire interior of the door was decorated with painted stories.
This painting may have been based on a design by Fra Angelico but it was probably painted by a member of his workshop.
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