VINCENT FERRER & SAINTS

BELLINI: 1464-1470

 

This polyptych of St. Vincent Ferrer was made for the altar and dedicated to the saint. It is Bellini’s first public assignment.

The altarpiece represents a major step in Bellini’s development, as his previous paintings had been smaller in scale and his figures less individualized. Some argue that he may have produced the piece in stages, given the different artistic styles.

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1. ARCHANGEL GABRIEL

He is part of the annunciation scene with The VM on the far right.

The Annunciation is when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she would conceive and be the mother of Jesus Christ.

The legend has it that when the archangel Gabriel appeared, he held a lily in his hand in recognition of Mary’s purity.

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2. PIETA

Pieta: The scene of the Pieta shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb.

Although the Pietà most often shows the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, there are other compositions, including God or angels holding Jesus.

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3. THE VM

This forms the Annunciation scene with the Angel on the far left. Annunciation scenes during the renaissance were pretty consistent, with Gabriel facing The VM, who is generally seated or kneeling. Typically, Gabriel is shown in near-profile, while the Virgin faces more to the front. She is usually shown indoors, or in a porch of some kind, and Gabriel outside the building entirely, usually in a garden. The Virgin is usually shown reading or praying. The VM reaction to the Gabriels' surprising news is typically: initial alarm at the sudden vision, or reluctance to fulfil the role, or acceptance. These are reflected in art by the Virgin's posture and expression.

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4. ST CHRISTOPHER

Saint Christopher was a man of great size and strength who devoted himself to Jesus by helping travelers cross a dangerous river. One day a child asked to ride on Christopher's shoulders across the river, but the infant seemed to grow heavier and heavier with every step. When they arrived on the opposite shore, the child identified himself as Christ, telling the holy man that he had just carried the weight of the world!

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5. ST VINCENT FERRER

He is presented as a Dominican friar (tonsured, clean-shaven, and in the black-and-white habit).

He is sometimes shown with a trumpet, a flame in his hand or on top of his head and/or an open bible referring to the Last Judgement/Revelations, which he fervently preached about.

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6. ST SEBASTIAN

Saint Sebastian (died c. 288) was a Christian saint and martyr, who is said to have been killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians.

He is typically shown in his youth, tied to a post or tree, wearing only a small loincloth and his body pierced by numerous arrows. This follows the account in the Golden Legend, which says by the time the archers were done he looked like a porcupine.

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7. MIRACLES PERFORMED BY ST VINCENT

The left predella tells the story of 2 miracles:
1. St Vincent saves a drowned woman.
2. He brings back to life those buried under ruins.

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8. MIRACLES PERFORMED BY ST VINCENT

The middle panel tells the story of 1 miracle:

St Vincent consumes the flesh of a man and a woman guilty of a crime with the fire of the Word and saves their souls.

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9. MIRACLES PERFORMED BY ST VINCENT

The right predella tells the stories of 2 miracles:

1. St Vincent brings a child back to life.
2. He frees prisoners.