The National Museum of Western Art

update 03 July 2017

on display Permanent Collection

Mariotto di Nardo [Active in Florence, 1394 - 1424]

Predella Panel Representing the Legend of St. Stephen: Devils Agitating the Sea as Giuliana Transports the Body of St. Stephen from Jerusalem to Constantinople / The Re-interment of St. Stephen beside St. Lawrence in Rome

Date1408
Materials/Techniquestempera on panel
Size (cm)29.6 x 57.5
Credit LinePurchased
CategoryPaintings
Collection NumberP.1993-0003
Predella Panel Representing the Legend of St. Stephen: Devils Agitating the Sea as Giuliana Transports the Body of St. Stephen from Jerusalem to Constantinople / The Re-interment of St. Stephen beside St. Lawrence in Rome

Mariotto di Nardo was a painter active in Florence from the end of the 14th century until the early part of the 15th century. This work is the lower portion, called the predella, of a triptych altarpiece made for the Pieve di Santo Stefano in Pane in Rifredi, near Florence. Today the altarpiece has been broken up into various parts that are located in far-flung collections, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Paul Getty Museum and the Grand Rapids Art Gallery. This painting depicts the major saint of the early Christian church, St. Stephen. The saint's life is detailed in the New Testament Book of the Apostles and in the Golden Legend, a biography of saints written in the medieval period. St. Stephen was preaching at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and the hostile crowd who had crucified Christ stoned him to death. This made St. Stephen the first Christian martyr. The three panels that constitute this predella are divided into six episodes, with each panel evenly divided into right and left sections by the introduction of either landscape or architectural elements. (3) Left section: Stephen, wearing blue vestments, is surrounded by women as he preaches. Two heretics argue with Stephen, but they cannot antagonize him. (3) Right section: Stephen stands in a building, surrounded by elders. The setting is the Jewish temple where Stephen argues with the high priest and the elders. (4) Left section: Stephen is stoned by the crowd and martyred. (4) Right section: Burial of St. Stephen. (5) Left section: Giuliana, wife of a senator of Constantinople then in Jerusalem, mistakes the saint's remains for those of her husband and has them put on a ship and carried to Constantinople. During the voyage the ship overcomes a storm sent by devils. (5) Right section: By the decree of Emperor Diogenes, the remains of Stephen are transferred from Constantinople to Rome. There they are buried in a joint grave with the remains of St. Lawrence. Thus, the traditional theme of a series of narratives related to the life of a saint were arranged in a horizontal array, just like a traditional Asian handscroll format painting. The vivid colors of tempera paint and the medieval spatial depictions are typical of the narrative style of the late medieval period in Italy. The richly imaginative scene of the ship at sea on panel (5), and the skill at showing nuanced figural characteristics add to the fascination of this predella.(Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no. 5)

Provenance

Lord Spencer Compton; Luisa, Lady Ashburton, and thence by descent; Christie's, London, July 8, 1988, lot 67 (see also Christie's Review of the Season 1988, Oxford, 1988, p. 23); Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd., London; Purchased by the NMWA, 1994.

Exhibition History

1996
Reconstruction of a Dispersed Altarpiece by Mariotto di Nardo, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 6 February 1996 - 7 April 1996, cat. no. 10
1997
Resonating Love and Life: European Art from National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, The Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Nagaoka, 12 April 1997 - 18 May 1997, cat. no. 1
1999
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. 5

Bibliography

1992
Agnew's 175th Anniversary: A Supplementary Catalogue of Pictures, Drawings, and Works of Art to Celebrate the Firm's Anniversary, London. 1992, no. 61.
1996
Annual bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. Nos. 27-28 (April 1992-March 1994), 1996, Koshikawa, Michiaki. New Acquisitions. pp. 9-13, List of New Acquisitions. p. 73, col. repr.
1999
Eisenberg, Marvin. Postscript to "The Confraternity Altarpiece" by Mariotto di Nardo. Journal of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. No. 3, 1999, pp. 61-63.
2013
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 3, col. repr.

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