(b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494, Firenze)

Announcement of Death to St Fina

Collegiata, San Gimignano

Fina, the pious daughter of poor parents, died on the feast day of Saint Gregory in 1253 after a long and painful illness. She was just fifteen years old. According to legend, after the death of her mother Fina lived an ascetic lifestyle so strict she was, in the end, scarcely able to move. Vermin and rats gnawed at her body until death finally liberated her from her prolonged sufferings. Pope Gregory the Great, in full regalia, appears floating in a glory of red winged angels to bless the young woman and announces her imminent death. At the instant she died, white, beautifully scented flowers blossomed forth from her bed of pain. The witnesses to this miracle are her old nurse and another woman, possibly a helpful neighbour.

The neighbour greets the great Church Doctor hesitantly with a gesture of restrained fright. Behind her is a row of objects on a bench. One of the items leaning against the rear wall of the box-shaped room is a golden bowl, an object that seems out of place in this bleak scene. The same is true of the pilasters on either side, whose golden capitals support the huge architrave. This architecture is designed to create an opulent frame for the picture rather than to reflect the place where the events are unfolding.