Antoniazzo Romano (1430/5-1510)
Triptych: Bust of Christ, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter.
Closed: Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Colombe
Distemper on panel
94 cm x 132 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Antonio di Benedetto Aquilio, called Antoniazzo Romano, (1430/5-1510) was the leading painter in Rome during the later fifteenth century, one of the three founders of the Compagnia di San Luca, the guild of painters in Rome, for which he signed the statutes in 1478.
From the 1470s until his death, he garnered some of the most prestigious commissions in Rome
Over decades he was called to decorate the most important holy places in the city: the Basilicas of the Twelve Holy Apostles of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, and St. John Lateran, the Pantheon, the Janiculum, the churches of San Pietro in Montorio and San Onofrio
He was known in his day as "Pictor Urbis" - Painter of the City
Considering that his contemporaries and competitors included Benozzo Gozzoli, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Melozzo from Forlì, Piermatteo of Amelia and Perugino, this was no mean feat
His style and composition are said to be "conservative". This was probably due to the fact that the commissioners and audience for his works were mainly senior prelates of the Roman Curia, religious communities and members of the Roman aristocracy
As he was the favourite of court of Alexander VI (the Borgia pope), his popularity went into decline when the court of the Borgias fell
In this painting the central figure is an icon painting of Christ in the Byzantine style
In the interior he is flanked by Saint Peter, with his keys, and Saint John the Baptist
Both have ribbons praising Christ
On the outside (when closed) are Saint John the Evangelist holding a feather and his Gospel, and Saint Colombe (a ninth century saint), accompanied by the bear that miraculously saved this Spanish nun from being raped
Likewise they hold ribbons praising the Lord
In this work the backgrounds are gilded
The work is reminiscent of the triptych in the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies) chapel now a side chapel from the Scala Sancta of the Lateran Palace, Rome.
The name of this chapel is now the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum
In medieval times this was the private chapel of the Popes
The centre of the work in the Lateran palace is a 5th century depiction of Christ: the Acheiropoieton: "Not painted with (human) hands"