Lot 405
  • 405

Master of the San Nicolò Triptych

6,000 - 8,000 USD
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  • Master of the San Nicolò Triptych
  • Saint Prosdocimus of Padua
  • oil on panel, laid down on artist's board, gold ground
  • 47 1/2 by 14 1/4 in.; 120.8 by 36.3 cm.


Possibly commissioned by Abbess Catarina Mariotti for the church of San Prosdocimo, Padua, 1503;
Possibly selected for acquisition by the State in 1808 and moved to the Depositorio della Commenda dell'Ordine di Malta, where it was recorded until 1822;
Ludwig Mond, London;
By whose Estate bequeathed to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in 1926 (acc. no. 833).


Possibly P. Edwards in G. Fogolari, "L'Accademia veneziana di pittura e scultura del '700", in L'Arte, XVI, 1913, p. 250;
Possibly G. Mariani Canova, "Tracce per una storia del patrimonio artistico dei monasteri benedettini padovani durante l'Ottocento", in San Benedetto e otto secoli (XII-XIX) di vitamonastica nel padovano, Padua 1980, p. 235;
Possibly E. Maria Dal Pozzolo, "La chiesa di San Prosdocimo (e della Beata Eustochio) a Padova", in Arte Veneta, 56, 2000, p. 77-78.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. The painting, in sound condition overall, has been removed from its original wood panel support and given a new support of compressed fiberboard. Wear, most noticeable in the saint's face, may be a result of process of the structural intervention. Retouching to compensate for losses and abrasion is visible with the naked eye due to being slightly off-color from the original. This includes a series of spots down the center of the torso, portions of the gloved hands, and a few patches of the red hem. Smaller losses are scattered throughout the figures depicted in the hem of the outer garment. Several long, slightly diagonal vertical cracks are visible in raking light, remnants of the original wood panel; this may indicate a thin layer of the wood is still extant beneath the new support. An even, near-matte varnish coats the surface. The painting is stable and may be displayed in its current state. Cleaning and new, better-matching retouching could have some positive affect on the appearance but is not strictly necessary.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This rare and unusual panel by the Master of the San Nicolò Triptych depicts Saint Prosdocimus and is possibly one of the missing wings that flanked the artist’s masterpiece, a Madonna and Child with Musical Angels, now in a private Lombard collection.  While the Madonna has been known since its sale at Christie’s London in 1979, until now all trace of the flanking panels was lost.1

Federico Zeri first assembled a group of paintings by this anonymous artist in his 1980 article, naming him after a triptych in the church of San Nicolò, Padua.2  Zeri reproduced eight full-length saints, including a Magdalene and a Saint Justine, both formerly in the J.B. Levy collection, New York.  The tooling in the background of the two female saints is identical to that of the present panel and they too have the same festoon of fruits above their heads.3   The female saints differ, however, in the inclusion of a parapet in the background.

Zeri also published a Madonna and Child with musical angels, now in a private Lombard collection, which he considered to be the masterpiece of the artist’s corpus.  The Madonna is inscribed in Latin on the ledge with the name of the patron, Abbess Catarina Mariotti, and the date, 1503.  On the basis of this inscription, Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo identified the Madonna as that from the Benedictine female monastery of San Prosdocimo (or Saint Prosdocimus) where Mariotti was abbess.  In his article from 2000, Dal Pozzolo cites an 1806 inventory by Pietro Edwards, who described the Madonna, complete with musical saints, inscription and date, as being flanked by two full length saints: Saint Daniel, the patron saint of Padua, and Saint Prosdocimus, first bishop of Padua and the monastery’s eponymous saint.4  While the hypothesis would require further research, it is tempting to identify the present panel as this Saint Prosdocimus described by Edwards.  The dimensions of the Madonna differ only slightly and could be accounted for by that it has been reduced and cradled.5

According to Edwards, the triptych at San Prosdocimo was selected for acquisition by the State in 1809 when the monastery was dismantled following the Napoleonic suppression.  It was sent to the Depositorio della Commenda dell’Ordine di Malta, Venice, where it was recorded in the 1822 inventory.6  It was then destined for Brera but disappeared mysteriously. 

For the moment the Master of the San Nicolò Triptych remains anonymous, though Dal Pozzolo has tentatively proposed an identification as Battista Tessari, the cousin of the Abbess Catarina Mariotti at the monastery of San Prosdocimo.  Battista was father of Girolamo Tessari, known as Girolamo del Santo.

We are grateful to Professor Andrea De Marchi for proposing the attribution on the basis of photographs and for recognizing the subject as Saint Prosdocimus.

1.  Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 23 February 1979, lot 99 (as North Italian School); for a recent image see E.M. Dal Pozzolo, under Literature, p. 75, fig. 1.
2.  F. Zeri, "Un esercizio in area veneta di provincia", in Antologia di Belle Arti, 15/16, 1980, pp. 134-140.
3.  G. Mariani Canova, under Literature.
4.  F. Zeri, under Literature, reproduced p. 135, figs. 1-2.
5.  The Madonna measures 116.3 by 44 cm.
6.  G. Mariani Canova, under Literature, pp. 237-237.