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Members' Research Report Archive

The Place of the Predella in the Renaissance

Nathaniel Silver, Research Associate, 2013–2014

Domenico Veneziano, Saint John in the Desert, c. 1445/1450c. 1445/1450

Domenico Veneziano, Saint John in the Desert, c. 1445/1450, tempera on panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1943.4.48

My research focuses on the predella. Found in churches in Italy, Spain, and northern Europe, this long, narrow, and compartmentalized space beneath the altarpiece and above the altar was a locus of experimentation and creativity for painters, sculptors, and goldsmiths for more than two centuries. Yet even the most basic questions regarding the genre remain unanswered. The initial aim of my project has been to establish a coherent definition of the predella, providing a critical account of the genesis and extinction of this peculiarly Renaissance concept, with particular attention to the structural, devotional, and rhetorical needs that it served.

Domenico Veneziano
Saint John in the Desert
c. 1445/1450