National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Andrew and Saint Benedict with the Archangel Gabriel [left panel] Agnolo Gaddi (painter)
Florentine, c. 1350 - 1396
Saint Andrew and Saint Benedict with the Archangel Gabriel [left panel], shortly before 1387
tempera on poplar panel
overall: 197 × 80 cm (77 9/16 × 31 1/2 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 3 of 8

This three-part altarpiece or triptych (1937.1.4.a shown here, see also 1937.1.4.b, 1937.1.4.c for complete triptych) is still in a Gothic frame, but the spiral columns are modern replacements reconstructed from traces of the now-lost originals. In the larger center panel, angels worship Mary as she sits on an elaborate throne. Jesus, standing on his mother’s lap, embraces her neck. Above them, in the main pinnacle, Jesus appears again as the adult Savior, holding open the Book of Revelation. In the pinnacles to either side, the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary face each other in an Annunciation scene.

Four saints flank the throne. At the far left, holding the cross upon which he was crucified, is Andrew the Apostle, one of Christ’s first disciples. On the far right is Catherine of Alexandria. A princess and scholar, she wears a crown and carries a book. She stands upon a broken wheel with spikes, in reference to a torture from which she was miraculously rescued, and holds a palm frond to signify her triumph over death as a martyr.

Saint Benedict, a sixth-century founder of monasticism, displays a text with the opening words of the Benedictine Rule, “Harken, O son, to the precepts of the master.” Reading from another book is Saint Bernard, a twelfth-century monastic reformer who helped found the strict, Cistercian branch of Benedictine monks. The white robes of Benedict and Bernard suggest the altar was commissioned for a Cistercian monastery.

The clearly organized color scheme makes it evident why Agnolo Gaddi, whose father had been a pupil of Giotto, was the most sought after painter in late fourteenth-century Florence. Mary and Jesus are surrounded by the brightest colors in the painting, the reds and greens of the angels’ wings and robes. Then come the neutral whites of the two monks’ habits. Bracketing the entire design are the rose pink and lime green of the outer saints’ robes and attributes, which echo, in pastel tints, the pure colors of the center angels.

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