Lot 11
  • 11

PAOLO VENEZIANO | Wings of a triptych: interior: Saints Peter, John the Baptist, Paul and a Bishop Saint; exterior: Saint Christopher and the Christ Child, and Saint Anthony Abbot

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Wings of a triptych: interior: Saints Peter, John the Baptist, Paul and a Bishop Saint; exterior: Saint Christopher and the Christ Child, and Saint Anthony Abbot
  • tempera on panel, gold ground
  • 12 5/8  by 4 3/8  in.; 32.1 by 11 cm.


Private collection, Europe;
Whence sold, Zurich, Koller, 22 September 2017, lot 3002 (as circle of Paolo Veneziano), where acquired.


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. This pair of panels is in good condition overall, particularly in light of the age and history of these pictures. Recent restoration reversed an earlier treatment in which the pair had been joined together and the backgrounds covered over with gold paint to give the impression of a single gold ground panel or icon. The two panels have been separated and cleaned in order to return them to a condition more in keeping with their original states. Cleaning revealed the backgrounds of the saints were originally vermilion red fields, now partially intact. Original vermilion paint is found closely surrounding both figures (including around the child and Saint Christopher's staff), and in the negative spaces to the left of and between Saint Christopher's legs. The vermilion used for Saint Anthony Abbott's cross is original as well. To the right of Saint Christopher's legs and in the outer reaches of both panels, the background has been very convincingly restored with a modern red pigment, apparently cadmium red based on elemental analysis. In the figures themselves, the clarity of the details remains intact and the retouching is restrained. The shadows in Saint Anthony Abbot's garments are reinforced, while two small vertical losses in the beard have been retouched. A portion of the Christ Child's torso on the left has been restored. On the sides depicting saints in two registers, restoration is intended to draw an approximation of the original figures from the now-worn imagery. The gold on this side is worn but overall the interior faces have an even appearance. These panels may be displayed in their current state.
"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

These small panels constitute a highly important discovery and addition to the œuvre of Paolo Veneziano, the dominant artistic personality of fourteenth-century Venice, who was almost solely responsible for the transition of Venetian art from its Byzantine roots to its own distinctive Gothic style. Until recently over-painted, over-gilded and joined as one to form a kind of icon, these works have now been returned insofar as possible to their original appearance as part of the wings of a portable triptych. Both sides of the panels, notwithstanding the somewhat compromised condition of the interior sections, exhibit the finesse and intensity of expression - exemplified here in Saint Christopher's gaze towards the Christ Child - for which Paolo Veneziano is most prized, and defines him as the most important artist in Venice at this time.  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.