The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I

The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 138. Sudarium (St. Veronica's Veil), St. George slaying a dragon, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, the Deesis: a triptych.

Nikolaos Tzafouris

Sudarium (St. Veronica's Veil), St. George slaying a dragon, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, the Deesis: a triptych

Auction Closed

January 29, 04:53 PM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details


Nikolaos Tzafouris

Active in Crete 1487 - 1501

Sudarium (St. Veronica's Veil), St. George slaying a dragon, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, the Deesis: a triptych

tempera and gold ground on panel

center panel: 10 ¾ by 8 ¾ in.; 27.3 by 22.2 cm.

side panels: 8 by 6 in.; 20.3 by 15.2 cm.

Private collection, Russia, before 1950;
Anonymous sale, Paris, Tajan, 23 October 2013, lot 1 (as Veneto-Cretan, circa 1600);
There acquired by Sam Fogg, London (as Nikolaos Tzafouris);
From whom acquired, 2016.

This fascinating triptych combines elements of Byzantine and Italian style and iconography, as is typical of the work of Nikolaos Tzafouris, an icon painter from Venetian-controlled Candia, Crete (modern-day Heraklion). Although the Byzantine and Latin churches could not officially reconcile, there was rich artistic and cultural exchange between them, and Tzafouris found many patrons for his hybrid works in the port city of Candia.1 It has been suggested, due to the combination of Latin and Greek inscriptions throughout the work, as well as the combination of typically Byzantine and Roman iconography, that the original owners of this triptych were a bilingual family with both Greek Orthodox and Venetian Catholic members.

When the polyptych is closed, the outer door shows the Sudarium of Veronica, the cloth on which Jesus wiped His face on his route to Calvary and on which His miraculous image appeared. The cloth is rendered in perspective with its edges overlapping the faux porphyry frame while the face of Jesus is more schematic, in keeping with the tradition of icon painting. Opening this door reveals St. George on horseback slaying the dragon at left and St. Anthony of Padua on the right. Astride a rearing white horse, St. George wears Cretan gold armor over a green velvet suit and a red cape and plunges a spear into the cowering dragon’s mouth. The composition is active, with naturalistic landscape details and folds in the velvet suit indicated subtly, but George’s face remains stoic. St. Anthony of Padua on the right stands before a solid gold background wearing his western monastic attire with tonsure and cincture, holding a flower and a Bible.

Opening the triptych still further reveals behind St. George the central image of the Deesis, and on the left wing, St. Francis of Assisi. Posed to mirror St. Anthony, St. Francis likewise wears western monastic garb and holds a cross and Bible, with the stigmata on his hand and side visible, the latter wound appearing prominently. The central panel, which would be shown only on special occasions, depicts Christ seated on a stone bench with red cushions, offering a blessing and holding the Bible on His lap. On the left is the Virgin in a blue dress and deep red mantle adorned with stars, and on the left, St. John the Baptist, barefoot in a hair shirt and a just-visible red robe. The Deesis is a powerful Byzantine image representing, with the Baptist, the end of the Old Testament, and with Mary, the beginning of the New Testament. Both the Virgin and the Baptist supplicate Christ on behalf of all humanity, and Christ Pantocrator (Almighty) unites beginning and end. The combination of a Byzantine central icon with Saints Francis and Anthony, popular in Roman Catholicism, highlights the cross-cultural nature of this triptych and of panel painting in the Mediterranean in the late-fifteenth century.

1. See A. Labatt, “The Religious Relationship between and the West.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004).