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Overview

The Saint Luke and Saint Mark panels were part of a commission from Pope Pius V in 1569 to decorate the newly built Torre Pio (Pius Tower) in the Vatican. The project, for which Vasari was knighted by the pope, was finished in two years. In the upper chapel, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, Vasari’s Coronation of the Virgin occupied the main altar while elaborately framed mirrors flanked either side of the chapel doorways. Large panel paintings of the four evangelists–Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, and Saint John–were set within these mirrors. After 1750, the chapel complex was dismantled and the paintings were dispersed.  Saint Matthew, Saint John, and the Coronation altarpiece eventually went to churches in Livorno, Italy, while Saint Luke and Saint Mark were held in private collections in Europe and the Americas, before their donation to the Gallery in 2012 by Damon Mezzacappa.

Saint Luke, patron saint of painters, with his attribute of a winged ox, is seen in the act of painting or drawing (a faint sketch of Madonna and Child is barely visible over his right shoulder).

Saint Mark, with his winged lion, writes his Gospel.

Both Evangelists twist and turn, larger than life, ready to burst from their confined space, evoking Michelangelo’s Sibyls and Prophets in the Sistine Chapel.

Provenance

Commissioned 1569, with NGA 2012.79.1 (Saint Mark), by Pope Pius V for the Chapel of the Archangel Michael in the Torre Pio of the Vatican Palace;[1] begun December 1570 and finished by June 1571; chapel dismantled after 1750. probably Charles Grignion II [1754-1804], Rome; his brother, Thomas Grignion [c. 1748-1821], London;[2] (sale, Christie's, London, 2 May 1807, no. 54, bought in); (sale, Christie's, London, 28-29 April 1809, no. 91); Sir Thomas Baring [1772-1848], Stratton Park, Hampshire; purchased from his estate by his son, Thomas Baring [1799-1873], London and Stratton Park; by inheritance to his nephew, Thomas George Baring, 1st earl of Northbrook [1826-1904], London and Stratton Park; by inheritance to his son, Francis George Baring, 2nd earl of Northbrook [1850-1929], London and Stratton Park; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 12 December 1919, no. 138 [with NGA 2012.79.1]); Vicars. (Galerie Charles Brunner, Paris), by 1929.[3] Don Lorenzo Pellerano, Buenos Aires; (his sale, Guerrico & Williams, Buenos Aires, October 1933, no. 971 [with NGA 2012.79.1 as no. 970]). (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 June 1986, no. 11 [with NGA 2012.79.1]); (Richard L. Feigen and Co., New York); sold to Damon Mezzacappa, Palm Beach, Florida; (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 11 January 1996, no. 55 [with NGA 2012.79.1], bought in); Damon Mezzacappa, Palm Beach, Florida; gift 2012 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1823
British Institution, London, 1823, no. 154, as St. Luke writing the Gospel.
Bibliography
1836
Passavant, Johann David. Tour of a German Artist in England. Translated by Elizabeth Eastlake. 2 vols. London, 1836: 1:283.
1838
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Works of Art and Artists in England. 3 vols. London, 1838: 3:34.
1854
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:176.
1980
Del Canto, Fabrizio. "Chiesa di San Sebastiano." In Livorno e Pisa: due città e un territorio nella politica dei Medici. Livorno: progetto e storia di una città tra il 1500 e il 1600. Pisa, 1980: 300-301.
1982
Frey, Karl, and Herman-Walther Frey, eds. Der Literarische Nachlass: Giorgio Vasari. Reprint of 1923 edition, 3 vols. Hildesheim and New York, 1982: 2:882, 884-886.
1989
Corti, Laura. Vasari: Catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1989: 106, repro.
1994
Baldini, Umberto. Giorgio Vasari: Pittore. Florence, 1994: 183.
1996
Dal Canto, Fabrizio. "Opere d'arte vendute dai francesi a Livorno nel 1799 e le vicende dei dipinti del Vasari della cappella di San Michele in Vaticano." Nuovi Studi Livornesi 4 (1996): 99-122, esp. 109-116.
2013
"Vasari and the National Gallery of Art." National Gallery of Art Bulletin 48 (Spring 2013): 4-5, repro.