Master of Saint Francis (Italian, Umbria, active third quarter 13th century)
Tempera and gold on wood
18 3/4 x 9 in. (47.6 x 22.9 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 954
The earliest Italian painting in the Lehman Collection, this panel formed part of one of the greatest Italian altarpieces of the third quarter of the thirteenth century. The double-sided altarpiece was probably commissioned for the main altar of the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. This panel—with Saint Francis (Galleria Nazionale, Perugia), Saint James and Saint John the Evangelist (both National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), Saint Matthew (Galleria Nazionale, Perugia), and Saint Peter (private collection)—formed the left side of one face of the main altarpiece; the right side of the other face depicted Isaiah (Tesoro di San Francesco, Assisi), and the Deposition, the Lamentation, and Saint Anthony (all Galleria Nazionale, Perugia). The tondi in the spandrels at the upper corners are cut into the panel through the canvas ground and are pigmented on gesso priming. They were originally, like the spandrels of the panels from this altarpiece at Perugia, filled with colored and gilded glass. The altarpiece was displayed above an early Christian sarcophagus containing the body of Saint Francis's follower, the Beato Egidio (ca. 1261). The painted arches and the disposition of the figures in the altarpiece panels echoes the sculpted reliefs of the sarcophagus. The Master of Saint Francis was also responsible for another highly significant Franciscan commission: a fresco cycle in the nave of the Lower Church of San Francesco at Assisi.
San Francesco al Prato, Perugia; Arciconfraternità della Pietà del Camposanto Teutonico, Rome, until 1921; "Monseigneur Del Val" (probably Anton de Wall, rector of the Camposanto Teutonico); Paolo Paolini, Rome. Acquired by Philip Lehman before 1928.