The present work most probably dates to this latter period, the soft modelling and fine features of Saint Nicholas reflective of Tuscan painting, in contrast to Barnaba’s earlier productions, which are characterized by a more Byzantine sensibility. This panel, in which the wood grain runs horizontally, was most likely part of a horizontal framing element of a large polyptych, possibly a pinnacle. Such a formation is found in the artist’s polyptych for the cathedral in Murcia, with four half-length figures of saints in pinnacles above panels depicting scenes from the life of Saint Lucy. Barnaba’s other polyptych sent to the Manuel chapel in Murcia is also pertinent as a point of comparison in the analogous half-length figure of Saint Nicholas, which forms one of the flanking panels around the Madonna and Child in the center.1 It has been suggested that the present panel may have constituted one of the pinnacles atop Barnaba’s polyptych intended for the church of Sant’Andrea e Lucia in Ripoli di Lari.
We are grateful to Dr. Laurence Kanter for confirming the panel's attribution to Barnaba da Modena and suggesting its function as a framing element after firsthand inspection.
1. For both polyptychs, see J. Sander, Italienische Gemälde im Städel 1300-1550. Oberitalien, die Marken und Rom, Mainz am Rhein and Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 14, reproduced p. 15, fig. 12.
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