National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Paul Bernardo Daddi (painter)
active by 1320, died probably 1348
Saint Paul, 1333
tempera on panel
painted surface: 224.8 × 77 cm (88 1/2 × 30 5/16 in.) overall: 233.53 × 88.8 × 5.3 cm (91 15/16 × 34 15/16 × 2 1/16 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.3
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 1 of 8

The narrow shape and large size of this panel suggest it was meant to hang against a colossal pillar in a church. The original frame utilizes decorative motifs similar to those in the borders of Gothic illuminated manuscripts.

Saint Paul holds a book, recalling the Epistles he wrote. The sword he displays has several meanings: his early career as a Roman soldier; his position as defender of the Christian faith; and the instrument of his martyrdom by beheading. The great dignity of his erect figure and the monumental effect of the drapery correspond to his stern, direct gaze. His imposing presence implies that the painter Bernardo Daddi may have been a pupil of Giotto.

A sweeter, gentler mood emanates from the small figures representing the donors who commissioned this painting. Although depictions of donors are not unusual in Gothic art, it is rare to find so many husbands and wives shown kneeling together. The couples are separated, just as men and women were while worshiping in church during the Middle Ages.

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