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Saint Bartholomew and Saint Monica
Zanobi Machiavelli
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This panel, which was part of an altarpiece, depicts Saints Bartholomew and Monica standing side by side on an angular step that encloses a patch of grass. At least two other fragments of the same altarpiece are also in the National Gallery’s collection. The central – and largest – panel shows the Virgin and Child. Another, which would have appeared on the left of the central image, shows Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and a bishop saint.

Bartholomew holds the curved flensing knife with which he was skinned alive in punishment for his Christian faith. He is joined by a female figure whose halo and Augustinian habit identify her as the fourth-century Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine. Her presence suggests that the altarpiece was made for a church that belonged to the Augustinian Order.

By around 1470, when Zanobi Machiavelli painted this panel, both its pointed-arch shape and its gold background would have appeared somewhat old-fashioned.

Key facts
Artist Zanobi Machiavelli
Artist dates about 1418 - 1479
Full title Saint Bartholomew and Saint Monica
Group Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made probably about 1470
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 142.5 x 59.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG586.3
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Panels from an Altarpiece

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These three panels once formed an altarpiece. The largest, which shows the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child, would have appeared at its centre. Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and a bishop saint would have appeared on the left of the central image, with Saints Bartholomew and Monica on the right. The inclusion of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, an Augustinian friar, and Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine, suggests that this altarpiece was made for an Augustinian foundation, perhaps the Florentine church of S. Spirito.

The panels have been linked to two others by Zanobi Machiavelli; while their compositions and gold backgrounds correspond, their shapes and sizes do not. A small panel showing a scene from the life of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) has also been suggested as part of the ensemble.

The shape and gold background would have appeared slightly old-fashioned by around 1470, when Zanobi Machiavelli painted this altarpiece.

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