LOTTO, Lorenzo
(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)

San Bartolomeo Altarpiece

1513-16
Oil on wood, 520 x 250 cm
San Bartolomeo, Bergamo

The picture shows the main panel of the San Bartolomeo (Saint Bartholomew) Altarpiece. The represented saints are: Alexander, Barbara, Roch, Dominic, Mark (at the left of the Madonna), and Catherine, Stephen, Augustine, John the Baptist, Sebastian (at the right).

The San Bartolomeo Altarpiece, a Sacra Conversazione, the largest of Lotto's altarpieces, was commissioned by Alessandro Martinengo in 1513 for the monastery of Sts Stephen and Dominic at Bergamo. It remained in the church until 1560 when the church was demolished. It was transferred to the Convent of Basella, then four years later to the church of San Bernardino. Finally, it was placed to the choir of the Dominican church of San Bartolomeo. In the 18th century it was dismembered, the main panel remained in the church, the other parts are dispersed. Before being moved to the present church it included numerous minor elements (cymatium, predella and small panels set in the columns of the frame) which are now to be found in various museums.

The use of the architectonic scheme of the Virgin and saints is orthodox only in appearance. In fact many details introduce a vein of strong tension and undulating movement. It is interesting to note the rebus of words and objects held in the high by the angels, which was typical of Lotto's liking for enigmas.