(b. ca. 1290, Siena, d. 1348, Siena)

Rofeno Abbey Polyptych

Tempera on wood, 258 x 230 cm
Museo d'Arte Sacra, Asciano

The Monastery of San Cristoforo in Rofeno is mentioned since 1031. While the church keeps the Cistercian architectonic typologies, the annexed cloister shows the last, visible eighteenth-century interventions, made by the Olivetans, who, since 1375 had taken the whole complex. Behind the main altar, the monks put a big altarpiece by Ambrogio Lorenzetti with St Michael and the Benedictine Saints, maybe fruit of an assembly at the beginning of the 16th century, to which dates back the carpentry which frames it and which was probably carved by the friar Raffaello from Reggio. The polyptych now is in the Museum of the Sacred Art of Asciano.

The panel, recently restored, is now separated from the rich carpentry encarved with "ancient style" motifs by Fra' Raffaello in which it was re-assembled in the early 16th century; probably in that period it was also placed from its original setting in the Benedictine church established by Guido Tarlati, bishop of Arezzo, in 1319 to the Rofeno Abbey church.

This reframed altarpiece, dedicated to St Michael the Archangel belongs to the early 1330s and shows extensive workshop participation. The St Michael, shown full-length and in the course of slaying a dragon, is among the most complex figures of the first half of the 14th century. St Michael the Archangel slaying the Dragon is between Sts Bartholomew and Benedict. In the cusps are St John the Evangelist, Madonna with Child, and St Louis of Toulouse.

The impressive image of St. Michael the Archangel, rendered in dynamic action elegant, struggling with the dragon described in the Apocalypse, is emphasized by the fluttering of the fine bi-coloured mantle and almost enclosed in the embrace of its broad wings. The articulation of the scene, playing in a curvilinear and enveloping rhythms, is exalted by rich, elegant colours.

The masterpiece, quoted also by Vasari, was considered as a model for many successive painters.