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 × 214.9 cm (110 1/4 × 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)
Source: F. Rossi (1979).


Parish Church, Somendenna

by 1775 -

Possibly Sant'Agostino (Bergamo, Italy)
Source: Andrea Pasta (1775). Description may correspond to the Getty picture.

- 1784

Giacomo Caniana (possibly Alzano, Italy)
Source: F. Rossi (1979).

by 1857 -

Possibly Don Clemente

by 1857 -

and S. Martino Maggiore (Alzano Lombardo, Italy)
Source: Ellis Waterhouse letter to B. Fredericksen (September 14, 1974), quoting from the diary of Otto Mündler (p. 87v).

1858 -

Giuseppe Baslini (Milan, Italy)
Source: Eastlake (1858).


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

Pasta, Andrea. Le Pitture Notabili di Bergamo. (Bergamo: 1775)

Mündler, Otto. Diaries. MS in the Library of the National Gallery. (London: May 21, 22, 1857) p. 87.

Eastlake, Charles L. Unpublished notebooks. (Library of the National Gallery, London: 1858) p. 19.

Crowe, J. A., and G. B. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy. 3 vols. Tancred Borenius, ed. (London: John Murray, 1912) pp. 47-48, note 1.

Venturi, Adolfo. Storia dell'Arte Italiana, vol. 7, La Pittura del Quattrocento, pt. 3. (Milan: 1914) p. 334.

van Marle, Raimond. "Die Sammlung Joseph Spiridon." Cicerone, 21, no. 7 (1929) pp. 186, 187 (fig. 12).

Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1923-1938), vol. 18 (1936) p. 130.

Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places: Venetian School. 2 vols. (London: Phaidon, 1957) p. 201.

Pallucchini, Rodolfo. I Vivarini. (Venice: 1962) p. 130, no. 215.

Sweeny, Barbara. John G. Johnson Collection. Catalogue of Italian Paintings. (Philadelphia: 1966) pp. 41-42.

Chiarini, Marco. "Vivarini." Entry in Encyclopedia of World Art (New York and London: 1967) XIV, 812.

The J. Paul Getty Collection, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1972) unpaginated, no. 52, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972) pp. 20-21, no. 24.

Gendel, Milton. "Italy." Art News, 71. (Summer 1972) p. 23, ill.

Lecoq, A.M. "L'art de la signature, II: Cadre et rebord." Revue de l'Art. (1974) p. 18, fig. 7.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975) pp. 69, 82, ill.

Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum, rev. ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976) p. 62.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976) p. 62.

Phaidon Encyclopedia of Art and Artists. (London: 1978) p. 648.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jírí Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978) pp. 78, 80.

Rossi, Francesco. "Pittura a Bergamo intorno al 1500. Ricostituzione di un partimonio disperso." Atti dell'Ateneo di Scienze, Lettere ed Arte. (Bergamo: 1979) pp. 84-85; 93, no. 44.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980) p. 66.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980) unpaginated, no. 5, ill.

Steer, John. Alvise Viviarini: His Art and Influence. (Cambridge: 1982) p. 4, no. 5.

Mündler, Otto. The Travel Diaries of Otto Mündler: 1855-1858, The Warpole Society, 51. (London: 1985) p. 154.

Natale, Mauro. "La pittura in Lombardia nel secondo Quattrocento." F. Zeri, ed. La Pittura in Italia: Il Quattrocento. (n.l. 1986 and 1987) vol. 1, p. 94.

Thiébaut, Dominique. Ajaccio, musée Fesch: Les Primitifs italiens. (Paris: 1987) p. 189, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Rev. ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988) unpaginated, no. 4, ill.

Lucco, Mauro, ed. La pittura nel veneto: Il Quattrocento, vol. 2. (Milan: 1990) vol. 2, p. 457.

Carr, Dawson W., and Mark Leonard. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, with British Museum Press, 1992) p. 9, ill.

Humfrey, Peter. "Bartolomeo Vivarini's Saint James Polyptych and Its Provenance." J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, 22. (1994) pp. 11-20.

Humfrey, Peter. Painting in Renaissance Venice (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995) pp. 89, 91 ill., fig. 66.

Colle, Enrico, and Alessandro Lazzeri. Villa Vittoria: da residenza signorile a Palazzo dei Congressi di Firenze (Florence: Centro internazionale congressi Firenze, 1995)

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997) p. 132, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001) p. 95, ill.

Doherty, Tiarna, and Anne T. Woollett. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009) p. 5, ill.