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Polyptych with Saint James Major, Madonna and Child, and Saints
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Bartolomeo Vivarini
Italian, 1490
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
110 1/4 x 84 5/8 in.
71.PB.30

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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.

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Lamb and scroll
Lamb and scroll