National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Anthony Distributing His Wealth to the Poor Master of the Osservanza (Sano di Pietro?)
Master of the Osservanza (painter)
Sienese, active late 1420s - early 1440s
Sano di Pietro (painter)
Sienese, 1405 - 1481
Saint Anthony Distributing His Wealth to the Poor, c. 1430/1435
tempera on panel
painted surface: 46.4 x 33.6 cm (18 1/4 x 13 1/4 in.) overall size: 47.3 x 34.8 cm (18 5/8 x 13 11/16 in.) framed: 61.6 x 125.4 x 7.6 cm (24 1/4 x 49 3/8 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.20
On View
From the Tour: Painting in Siena in the 14th and Early 15th Centuries
Object 9 of 10

Along with The Death of Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony Leaving His Monastery, and The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul this is one of a series of panels illustrating the life of Saint Anthony, founder of Christian monasticism. Their original setting is uncertain but they were probably from a single altarpiece where they were arranged vertically to flank a central image of a saint, painted or perhaps sculpted. In the first scene (illustrated here), young Anthony renounces his wealth and distributes it among the poor.

Although he lived in the third century, the saint is depicted in contemporary guise. The arms of a prominent Sienese family appear over a doorway, and some of the architecture may reflect specific buildings in the city and surrounding area. Here are beggars with patches on their clothing, a blind man being led by his small dog, and on the balcony, the iron spikes that supported awnings against the summer sun. Like the dramatic sermons of street preachers and the performance of religious plays, in which townspeople acted the parts of saints, these details helped viewers visualize sacred events with immediacy and vividness.

The artist combined tradition—note the typically Sienese brilliance of his pinks and greens—with a new interest in landscape and experiments in perspective. Through windows and doorways overlapping layers make depth legible.

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