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Giovanni di Paolo

The Ecstasy of Saint Francis


Giovanni di Paolo
Siena about 1403 – Siena 1482


The Ecstasy of Saint Francis


About 1440


Tempera and gold on wood


25.5 x 7.5 cm


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 2008.5


Western Art

Giovanni di Paolo apparently began his career as a miniaturist. His earliest documented commission is for several illuminations for a Book of Hours. He seems to have found his inspiration in the golden age of Sienese painting. His art reflects his sensitivity to the refined style of the International Gothic, evidencing none of the contemporary interest in the exploration of spatial perspective. Stylistically, our work would seem to date to the early 1440s, when his works gained a new expressive power in dramatic movement and gesture. His style, unique, passionate, expressive and quite original, marked him as one of the truly outstanding — and idiosyncratic — artists of fifteenth-century Italy. This small, poignant Ecstasy is almost certainly the left wing of a portable, closing triptych for private devotion. The iconography with the stigmatization of Saint Francis was quite common for triptych wings in Sienese painting of the time. Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian founder of the Franciscan Order, who preached the virtue of poverty, receives the stigmata (traces of Christ’s wounds on the cross) after having seen the vision of a seraph.

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