The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, ca. 1340
Leaf from the laudario created for Sant'Agnese, Florence
Pacino di Bonaguida (Italian, active ca. 1303–ca. 1340)
Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; 18 1/2 x 13 3/4 in. (47 x 35 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 2006 (2006.250)
This arresting image, in remarkable condition, comes from the most important manuscript created in Florence in the first half of the fourteenth century: a laudario, or collection of hymns in Italian. More than twenty illuminations survive from this hymnal, which was commissioned by the Confraternity of Saint Agnes for use at the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine.
Freed from the traditional monastic constraints of enclosing illuminations within the confines of the first letter of a hymn, Pacino di Bonaguida, a leading member of the painters' guild of Florence, presented the martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew as if it were a small diptych. At the left, Bartholomew is chained to a city gate and flayed; his graceful, dancelike pose turns the horror of martyrdom upside down, suggesting the notion of God's grace in the midst of barbarity. In a stop-action scene at the right, the saint has just been beheaded. He still kneels in prayer, and his own flesh is tied around his neck as a mantle. At the upper right, angels escort his tiny soul to heaven. In a roundel set in the foliate ornament at the left, Bartholomew preaches to a crowd in India, where he was believed to have evangelized. At the upper left, he is laid in his tomb.