Predella with Annunciation and Scenes from the Lives of Four Saints
Nicola di Maestro Antonio d'Ancona
This predella depicts defining events in the lives of the Madonna and Saints John the Baptist, Lawrence, Stephen, and Anthony of Padua, all represented on the main panel of an altarpiece now in a Roman private collection. Decorated pilasters capped with Corinthian capitals divide the predella into clearly defined scenes of martyrdom and wonder, while a verdant, mountainous landscape in the distance provides a rhythmic continuity of peaks and valleys that draws the eye across the panel’s individual narratives.
Traditionally the devotional focus of an altarpiece, the Virgin receives the widest section at the center of the predella with a depiction of the Annunciation, the moment when Mary’s destiny to bear the Christ Child is revealed to her by the Archangel Gabriel. Nicola places the four remaining scenes on either side of the Annunciation—just as the saints would appear on either side of the Madonna in the main panel. Significantly larger in scale and adorned with halos, the saints are clearly distinguished from the other figures in their respective scenes.
Tempera on panel
Image: 6 1/4 x 72 3/4 in. (15.9 x 184.8 cm)
Frame: 10 x 76 in. (25.4 x 193 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Mary Babbott Ladd, Lydia Babbott Stokes, and Frank L. Babbott, Jr. in memory of their father Frank L. Babbott
This item is not on view
Nicola di Maestro Antonio d'Ancona (Italian, Marchigian School, documented 1472-1511). Predella with Annunciation and Scenes from the Lives of Four Saints, ca. 1475-1480. Tempera on panel, Image: 6 1/4 x 72 3/4 in. (15.9 x 184.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mary Babbott Ladd, Lydia Babbott Stokes, and Frank L. Babbott, Jr. in memory of their father Frank L. Babbott, 34.844 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 34.844_SL1.jpg)
overall, 34.844_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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What is the meaning of the decapitation and the incineration? And who are the victims?
These are depictions of the martyrdom of saints who served as role models for the faithful in Christianity.
The scenes depict two different saints: The man being burned is St. Lawrence, a 3rd century Roman deacon who was burned alive for distributing the Church's riches among the poor and claiming them as its true treasure. (You can see another altar piece to your left with more depictions of his life and death by a different artist.)
The man being decapitated is St. John the Baptist, who baptized Christ and was beheaded because he insulted Herodias, queen of Judea. Her daughter Salome offered to dance before King Herod in exchange for the head of St. John, according to the gospel of St. Mark.