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Giovanni Battista da Conegliano Cima (c. 1459-c. 1517)

Altarpiece c. 1500-10

Oil on panel | 39.2 x 49.3 x 4.3 cm (frame) (frame, external) | RCIN 407288

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  • It is thought that these four panels all belonged to a small altarpiece, although their arrangement is unclear. It is likely that the larger panels in greenish grisaille would, following Flemish convention, have formed the outside of the wings; this is consistent with damage down the outside edge of each panel where there would originally have been hinges. The grisailles depict two full-length saints, Saint Benedict or possibly Saint Paul (on the left) and Saint Stephen (on the right). The coloured panels are more generously framed, and might have been on the inside of the same wings (leaving the central panel missing). The Annunciation is divided between the upper parts of the coloured panels, with, below, Saint George and the Dragon on the left and Saint Theodore or Saint Liberale on the right, both against landscape backgrounds. It has been suggested that the panels may have been painted for the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, which was dedicated to Saint Stephen, and for which Cima made other works. The attribution of these panels to Cima is generally accepted. Where Cima trained is uncertain, but the influences of Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini are apparent. During the 1490s when Bellini was decorating the Doge’s Palace Cima became Venice’s leading painter of altarpieces. While most of his commissions came from the Veneto, some came from as far as Parma and Capodistria. Although his works are rarely on such a small scale as this, the scenes of the ‘Discovery and Proof of the Cross’ in the predella of the ‘Constantine and Helena’ altarpiece (1502) in San Giovanni in Bragora, Venice, are apparently autograph and are comparable with the inner coloured panels seen here. The grisaille saints are distinctly coarser in handling and are presumably products of Cima’s workshop.
    Provenance

    Bought by Ludwig Grüner from Minardi in Rome in 1847, and given to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria on his birthday, 26th August 1847 [Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010, pg 460]

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel

    Measurements

    39.2 x 49.3 x 4.3 cm (frame) (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Four Panels from an Altarpiece: The Annunciation and Saints Benedict?, George, Theodore? and Stephen