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Virgin and Child with Saints Nicholas, Sebastian, Roch and Martin
Late 1400s
Lucchese School, Late 15th Century | Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool


Description: This altar painting shows a gathering of saints around the enthroned Virgin and Child. Those praying before it would have felt drawn into the scene by the glance and gesture of St Nicholas on the left. St Sebastian and St Roch (next to the Virgin) were prayed to for protection from the plague. The piece was painted possibly in connection with an outbreak of the disease. St Martin, on the right, is patron saint of Lucca in Italy. In many places the paint surface is missing. These gaps have been filled with neutral tone rather than an attempted reconstruction of the original design.

Additional artwork information: Lucca was an independent Italian state until it was conquered by Florence in 1400. Once it came under Florentine control, artists from Florence were employed to paint the most important commissions in the city. The great Florentine painter Ghirlandaio made an altarpiece similar in structure and composition to this one, which can still be seen in Lucca Cathedral. Some art historians have suggested that 'Virgin and Child with Saints Nicholas, Sebastian, Roch and Martin' was possibly painted by an artist from Lucca who was influenced by Ghirlandaio's picture. However, it is also possible that it was painted by an artist in Florence and then delivered to the Cathedral. We do not know the name of the person who painted it. He may even have been one of the many pupils of Ghirlandaio, although it is certainly not by his most famous pupil - Leonardo da Vinci.
Physical Format: w588.8 x h1689.1 cm (Without frame)
Type: Tempera on canvas and board, transferred from wood panel
Rights: Bequeathed by PH Rathbone in 1895
See on institution's site: Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool