Description Though its intimate scale suggests it was intended for private devotion in a domestic interior, the general arrangement of this painting preserves the format of an altarpiece, with the central image placed above a fictive “predella,” or illustrated horizontal base. The main image is a conventional representation of the Nativity: against a deep landscape, the Virgin and Saint Joseph kneel in adoration of the Christ Child, who lies humbly in the ground and looks toward the heavens, where the dove of the Holy Spirit appears. In the predella below are three saints shown at bust-length: (from left to right) Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), his hands marked with the wounds of Christ (“stigmata”); the hermit Saint Jerome (ca. 347-420 CE), beating a rock against his chest as an act of penitence; and Saint Bernardino (1380-1444), patron saint of the city of Siena, holding a tablet emblazoned with the name of Jesus (abbreviated as "YHS"). The inclusion of Saints Francis and Bernardino, both members of the Franciscan order of monks, suggests the painting may have been made for patron associated with that order. The painting is a typical work by the Sienese painter Girolamo di Benvenuto, last in line of an artistic dynasty started in the 15th century by his father, Benvenuto di Giovanni (1436-ca. 1518). As indicated by the forms, which are less elongated and stylized than those in the artist’s other images of the Nativity, such as the one at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Walters panel probably dates relatively late in the artist’s career. It may date near 1515, when Girolamo frescoed his great "Assumption of the Virgin" in the church of Santa Maria in Portico a Fontegiusta, near Siena, that same year. For two other works by the artist at the Walters, see 37.732 and 37.721.
|1/19/1982||Examination||examined for exhibition|
- God's Minstrel: St. Francis of Assisi. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1982.
Provenance Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome [date and mode of acquisition unknown] [1881 catalogue: no. 127, as Gentile da Fabriano; 1897 catalogue: no. 325, as school of Ghirlandaio]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902
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