This piece was originally the center panel of a small triptych commissioned for a side altar or chapel. The panel depicts the Virgin Mary seated on a brocaded pillow upon a high platform. She holds the Christ child and a rose—a sign of her beauty and purity. Upon either side of her throne are her saintly companions. St. Julien, on the left, is an example of a penitent sinner who regained God’s grace. St. Anthony, on the right, is considered the father of monasticism. He was a hermit who spent his life in the Egyptian desert. St. Julien and St. Anthony may appear to be atypical additions to the otherwise classical scene, but they possess a significant connection in the city of Florence, Italy.Their significance to his hometown is most likely what led Lorenzo di Niccolo’s patron to request a piece featuring these two men. St. Julien is associated with the defeat of the radical Ciompi because the victory took place on his feast day. St. Anthony is honored amongst Florentines because the patrician oligarchy regained power on his feast day. This piece was donated by the Kress Foundation in 1961 to promote their mission of arts appreciation and education.
-Susan Bonta, Class of 2019