National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint James Minor Master of Saint Francis (artist)
Umbrian, active second half 13th century
Saint James Minor, probably c. 1270/1280
tempera on panel
painted surface: 48.3 × 22.5 cm (19 × 8 7/8 in.) overall size: 49.8 x 24.2 cm (19 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.) framed: 58.7 x 33 x 6 cm (23 1/8 x 13 x 2 3/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.15
On View
From the Tour: Byzantine Art and Painting in Italy during the 1200s and 1300s
Object 2 of 8

Originally forming part of the back of an altarpiece, this panel when joined with a companion panel also in the Gallery’s collection would have shown James Minor and John the Evangelist standing under an arcade; round cuttings in the spandrels probably held glass ornaments. Other panels from this altarpiece, now in other museums, include a Madonna and the remaining apostles as well as Saint Francis. Inclusion of Saint Francis would have had particular significance for Franciscans, many of whom regarded their founder as the thirteenth apostle. In fact, the monks, who sat in the choir of the church behind the altar, were the only members of the congregation normally able to see these panels.

The artist apparently modeled the arcade and the Roman-style dress after an early Christian sarcophagus unearthed in 1262. This marble coffin was reused for the burial of the Blessed Egido, a companion of Saint Francis, in the crypt of the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. Probably the two panels here were originally in the same church, placed on the altar directly above Egido's coffin.

Note how faces and folds of cloth are defined with white highlights applied over the background colors. Later works in the Gallery's collection—Giotto's Madonna and Child, for example—use a gradual and continuous blending of dark colors to re-create the realistic appearance of shadows.

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