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Saint Lawrence Intercedes for the Soul of Emperor Henry II

Lorenzo di Niccolò

European Art

A horizontal panel that supports the main altarpiece, a predella often presents narrative scenes from the life of the saint or holy figure who is represented in the main image above it. In this example, Lorenzo illustrates the life of Saint Lawrence, a third-century deacon of the Catholic Church and an early martyr.

At an undetermined time and for reasons that remain unclear, this predella was removed from its altarpiece and cut into several pieces. Scholars have reconstructed the approximate sequence, following art-historical precedent, and arranged the scenes according to the devotional function of the predella rather than providing a strict chronology of events. This ordering places the widest panel—the depiction of the martyred Lawrence liberating the souls in Purgatory—as the central scene in the legend of the saint. During the early Renaissance, the Catholic faithful frequently invoked Lawrence to intercede for these penitent souls.

The arrangement of the panels is asymmetrical—with two scenes to the left of the central panel and three to its right—suggesting that an episode may be missing. With the exception of the martyrdom scene, Lorenzo consistently represents the saint with a halo, tonsured head, and pink robe, making him instantly recognizable throughout.
MEDIUM Tempera and tooled gold on poplar panel
  • Place Made: Italy
  • DATES ca. 1412
    DIMENSIONS 15 × 9 × 7/16 in. (38.1 × 22.9 × 1.1 cm) frame: 18 × 9 × 1 3/4 in. (45.7 × 22.9 × 4.4 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Gift of A. Augustus Healy
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1903, provenance not yet documented; ca. 1412, possibly commissioned for the Chiesa di San Lorenzo a Colline, Impruneta, Italy; before 1903, acquired by an unidentified convent near Florence, Italy; by February 1903, acquired from an unidentified convent by Aaron Augustus Healy of Brooklyn, NY; November 11, 1903, gift of Aaron Augustus Healy to the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Lorenzo di Niccolò (Italian, Florentine, documented 1393–1412). Saint Lawrence Intercedes for the Soul of Emperor Henry II, ca. 1412. Tempera and tooled gold on poplar panel, 15 × 9 × 7/16 in. (38.1 × 22.9 × 1.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of A. Augustus Healy, 03.74 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 03.74_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 03.74_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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