This scene is one of two that illustrate an early episode in the life of Saint Nicholas, soon after he was elected bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the fourth century. Here two knights, identified by their shirts of mail, are being falsely accused of treason and condemned by the consul. A third knight, the right arm of the consul, and the beginning of the inscription—[S N]ICO/ LAVS: PR[A]ESES/ MILITES (Nicholas protects the soldiers)—were lost when the panel was cut down at an undetermined time. In the second scene (acc. no. 1980.263.3), Nicholas responds to the knights' prayers by appearing before the counsul to plead for their release. A palace guard looks on from the left.
The panels probably came from an ambulatory chapel dedicated to Saint Nicolas in the cathedral of Soissons, whose choir was under construction in the 1190s. This type of composition, in which each narrative element is framed under an arcade, is among the earliest known examples of its kind and is strongly associated with Soissons. The elegant figural style and flowing drapery patterns exemplify a classicizing trend found in northern France from the late twelfth through early thirteenth century.
From the ambulatory (?) of the cathedral of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais, Soissons; Raymond Pitcairn 1885–1966, Bryn Athyn, PA. (until 1966) ; Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, PA. (sold 1980)
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