Saints Christopher and Anthony are set against a red background on the exterior of the wings, with the half-length figures of Saints Peter, John the Baptist, Paul and a bishop saint (possibly Saint Nicholas or Ambrose) on the interior, arranged within niches created by the integral frames of three-lobed arches, atop which would originally have been the figures of the Archangel Gabriel and the Madonna Annunciate (still just visible). These wings would have flanked a central panel, most probably depicting the Madonna and Child, possibly surmounted by an additional scene of the Crucifixion, or The Man of Sorrows.
Such an arrangement is found in Paolo's triptych in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma (dated to circa 1333),1 and in the component parts of the dismembered triptych split between the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Worcester Art Museum, and the Getty, Los Angeles (dated to circa 1345).2 The central panels of both those triptychs, on a much larger scale, comprise both a Madonna and Child and the Crucifixion; the small size of the present wings, however, may preclude the presence of a second tier in the original central panel. In the aforementioned triptychs the flanking saints are also pictured full-length, in contrast to the half-length attendant saints here.
The difference in size between those works and the present panels demonstrate how Paolo adapted his triptych designs accordingly. Some features, however, remain consistent: the figures of Saint Christopher and the Christ Child here are almost identical to those on the exterior of the aforementioned Parma triptych, and the Worcester wing, though that is of greater dimensions (fig. 1); Saint Anthony reappears in the same orientation and pose in Paolo's grand polyptych in the Museo Civico Sartorio, Trieste (fig. 2);3 and the decorative lobed pattern around the internal frames here is also used in the Parma triptych.
We are grateful to Professors Mauro Lucco and Andrea De Marchi, Dottoressa Cristina Guarnieri and Dr Christopher Platts, who have all independently endorsed the attribution of these panels to the artist. Professor Andrea de Marchi and Dottoressa Guarnieri date the panels to the early 1340s, based on stylistic and physiognomic similarities in the figures, such as Saint Anthony Abbot, whose prominent forehead is analogous to the same figure in Paolo's polyptych in San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna of circa 1344. On the other hand, Professor Mauro Lucco dates the panels to 1330-33, noting that the halos (most clearly visible around the heads of Saints Christopher and Anthony) are both drawn free-hand and punched - a practice visible in the Worcester panels, and in the Madonna and Child, in the Museo Diocesano, Padua,4 but one which Lucco argues ceased after 1333, when halos appear to have been punched exclusively. Dr Platts also dates the paintings to the 1330s.
1 Inv. no. 458 N; see F. Pedrocco, Paolo Veneziano, Milan 2003, pp. 146-47, cat. no. 5, reproduced in color.
2 For the interior of the wings at the Worcester Art Museum, inv. no. 1927.19, see Pedrocco 2003, pp. 148-49, cat. no. 6, reproduced in color; black and white reproductions of the other panels may be found on the Online Photo Archive of the Fondazione Federico Zeri.
3 See Pedrocco 2003, pp. 196-97, cat. no. 26, reproduced in color.
4 Inv. no. 1604; see Pedrocco 2003, pp. 160-61, cat. no. 11, reproduced in color.
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