(known 1463, Venezia, d. 1512, Castelfranco Veneto)


c. 1478
Tempera on wood, 152 x 88 cm (centre), 152 x 47 cm (sides), 80 x 199 cm (lunette)
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Unlike Bartolomeo Vivarini, the early works of Andrea da Murano display the fullness of sculptural form and clarity of spatial structure which we note in the works of Giovanni Bellini. His masterpiece of this period is the polyptych, originally in the church of St Peter Martyr of Murano.

Although conceived according to the traditional dividing up into compartments, with St Vincent Ferrer and St Roch in the centre, St Sebastian on the left, St Peter the Martyr on the right, and in the lunette the Madonna of Mercy with St Louis, St Dominic, St Bernardino and St Catherine, the palimpsest acquires a wholeness of vision through his confident mastery of perspective. Masters of the space within which they stand naturally on the gold ground, the figures have both a sculptural and a spiritual quality. In the three compartments, St Sebastian stands transfixed gazing sorrowfully upwards while the other saints motion benignly and reassuringly towards the devotees.

The work was probably painted after an outbreak of plague, perhaps the one in 1478, as the saints in the lower register suggest. All were venerated for their miraculous powers against epidemics.

The paintings in the lower register were transferred to canvas, the lunette remains on panel. The polyptych is signed lower centre: OPUS.ANDRAE.DE.MURIANO.