Polyptych with Saint James Major, Madonna and Child, and Saints

Object Details


Polyptych with Saint James Major, Madonna and Child, and Saints


Bartolomeo Vivarini (Italian (Venetian), about 1432 - 1499)






Tempera and gold leaf on panel


Framed [outer dim]: 280 x 214.9 cm (110 1/4 x 84 5/8 in.)

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Bartolomeo Vivarini's paintings were noted for their use of bright, dissonant colors and figures that resemble sculptures or wood carvings. This polyptych, made for a parish church dedicated to Saint James the Greater in northern Italy, depicts Saint James in the center, holding a pilgrim's staff with the symbolic scallop shell and a book.

At the lower left, Saint John the Baptist wears his customary tunic of animal skins and a pale gray-green mantle and stands in a rocky setting along the river Jordan, unlike the other figures who stand before a marble ledge. To his left stands Saint John the Evangelist.

At the lower right, Saint Bartholomew holds a book and a knife, the symbol of his martyrdom, and an elderly Saint Peter holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

In the central panel of the upper tier, the Virgin holds the Christ Child, who raises his right arm in blessing. At the top left, Saint Catherine of Alexandria holds a broken wheel, her symbol of martyrdom, and Saint Ursula clasps two rods with banners. On the Virgin's left, Saint Apollonia holds a book and a pincer with a tooth, referring to the instruments of her martyrdom, and Saint Lucy holds an oil lamp that alludes to the significance of her name, saint of light.

1490 - 1702

San Giacomo (Vallalta, Italy)


Parish Church, Somendenna

by 1775 -

Possibly Sant'Agostino (Bergamo, Italy)

- 1784

Giacomo Caniana (possibly Alzano, Italy)

by 1857 -

Possibly Don Clemente

by 1857 -

and S. Martino Maggiore (Alzano Lombardo, Italy)

1858 -

Giuseppe Baslini (Milan, Italy)

Vito Enei (Rome, Italy)

before 1871 -

Valentinis (Rome, Italy)

before 1871 - before 1914

Private Dealer

before 1914 - 1929

Joseph Spiridon [sold, Spiridon sale, Cassirer and Helbig, Berlin, May 31, 1929, lot 67.]

Torlonia (Rome, Italy)

- 1955

Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Italian, 1878 - 1955 (Florence; Rome, Italy), by inheritance within the Contini Bonacossi family.

1955 - 1971

Contini-Bonacossi Family (Florence, Italy; Rome, Italy), sold to Spencer A. Samuels & Company, Ltd., 1971.


Spencer A. Samuels & Company, Ltd. (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972) (Cat. 52)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972
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    Audio: Polyptych with St James Major, et al. (Family)
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    Audio: Polyptych with St James Major, et al.