GIAMBONO, Michele
(b. ca. 1400, Venezia, d. ca. 1462, Venezia)

Polyptych of St James

c. 1450
Tempera on panel, 109 x 44 cm (central panel), 88 x 29 cm (side panels)
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Originally from the Scuola del Cristo at the Giudecca, the polyptych is composed of five panels, the central one of which is of St James the Greater with St John the Evangelist and St Filippo Benizzi (one of the saints of the Order of Servites) on the left, and St. Michael the Archangel and St. Louis of Toulouse on the right. The figures of the saints are set in a slow, semicircular rhythm against the tooled gold of the background and the actual paint seems to be translucent like porcelain. The extremely refined figures suggest obvious affinities with the world of Pisanello, particularly the figure of the Archangel Michael in his heavy armour decorated with gold, his pale face encircled with a crown of curls, his body poised almost as if to execute a dance-step over that of the dragon which lies like a heraldic image at the bottom of the panel.

Again in this late work Giambono's confidence in his world of fabled lands and airy architecture, of gently flowing arabesques and elegantly shaded colourings will certainly not have been shaken by the presence in Venice since 1442 of an example of the new art emerging from Tuscany the frescoes of Andrea del Castagno in the chapel of St. Tarasius in the Church of San Zaccaria.

The polyptych is signed in the lower part of the central panel: MICHAEL / GIAMBONO PINXIT.




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