The National Museum of Western Art

update 26 May 2016

on display Permanent Collection

Jacopo del Sellaio [Florence, c. 1441 - Florence, 1493]

Votive Altarpiece: the Trinity, the Virgin, St. John and Donors

Datec. 1480-85
Materials/Techniquestempera on panel
Size (cm)127 x 75
Credit LinePurchased
Collection NumberP.1973-0003
Votive Altarpiece: the Trinity, the Virgin, St. John and Donors

According to L. H. Heydenreich, this "in memoriam" painting dates from Jacopo's middle period when the influence of Botticelli was not yet strongly apparent, thus putting the work at the first half of the 1480s. The composition shows the city of Florence straddling the Arno River in the background, with the Holy Trinity of God, the Holy Spirit and Christ seen at the top of the composition. At the base of the Cross, the corpses of two women, thought to be mother and daughter, are laid out. On either side, the donor of the work and his son are shown accompanied by the Virgin and St John. The plague was rampant in Florence in 1479-84, and many scores of people died. These two women were probably victims of the plague. This altarpiece was commissioned by the widower in memory of his wife and daughter and was donated to a church in Florence in prayer for their souls. The depiction of the four bridges spanning the Arno in the background image of Florence (the third bridge is the Ponte Vecchio) is a realistic depiction of the city at the time, as seen in a comparison with the woodcut of a town view of Florence dating to 1480. The tall tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and the dome of the Cathedral appear on the left side of the river. However, the town's distant view was the painter's imaginative image, and this area reflects the influence of the early da Vinci work Baptism of Christ and the Annunciation in the Uffizi Gallery. The slopes of the mountains on left and right that contain the town include eight narrative scenes ranging from the top of the hills to the riverbanks. Jacopo was particularly fond of including numerous examples of such small vignettes in his background images. From the left craggy mountain to the craggy mountain on the right, the scenes are the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Good Samaritan, the Meeting of Christ and John the Baptist, the Vision of St. Augustine (children trying to empty the sea by scooping water with a shell), Tobias and the Angel, St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, St. Jerome, and Moses Receiving the Ten Commandments. These small scenes are all painted in the miniaturist form found in Botticelli's small panel paintings. This painting is a frank expression of the style of the Florentine school of the latter half of the 15th century, a style that constituted the main stream of early Renaissance art. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no. 12)


Von Miller, München; Otto Wertheimer, Paris; Purchased by the NMWA, 1973.

Exhibition History

European Landscape Painting, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 14 September 1978 - 26 October 1978, cat. no. 3, repr.
European Landscape Painting, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Kofu, 3 November 1978 - 15 January 1979, cat. no. 3
Florence and Venice: Italian Renaissance Paintings and Sculpture from the State Hermitage Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 20 March 1999 - 20 June 1999, cat. no. 9


Heidenreich, Ludwig H. Ein In-Memoriam-Bild des Jacopo del Sellaio. Kunst und das Schöne Heim. 50. Jg., Heft 7, 1952, pp. 252, 253, col. repr.
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, tome 83, Feb. 1974, "Chronique des Arts", p. 202, no. 694, repr.
Les cent chefs-d'œuvre du Musée National d'Art Occidental. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1975 (Japanese), no. 3, repr.
Bulletin Annuel du Musée National d’Art Occidental, No. 8 (1973), 1975, Nouvelles acquisitions, par Chisaburoh F. Yamada, pp. 4-5. Nouvelles acquisitions (catalogue). pp. 6-7. col. repr. p. 2.
Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1978 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 3, col. repr.
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo: Catalogue of paintings. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1979, no. 257
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 11, col. repr.

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