MASTER of Saint Gilles
(active around 1500 in France)
St Gilles and the Hindc. 1500
Oil and egg tempera on oak, 61 x 45 cm
National Gallery, London
The two panels are believed to have been part of the left shutter of an altarpiece. They show the two most important parts of the legend of the holy man who had taken to a hermit's life in a forest near Arles. The one illustrates the meeting between the Visigoth king and his followers and the saint, set in a beautiful landscape. The magnificent green velvet mantle faced with scarlet and gold brocade distinguishes the king from his companions. Outstanding among this picturesque group is a man with a bow and arrows, in a green and white striped tunic. The three chief figures are placed against a background of lush flowers and shrubs and water, and the Mediterranean atmosphere evoked by the great tree in the centre gives the picture a peculiar mood of its own. Some scholars believe that a section of the town of Saint Gilles-du-Gard can be recognized in the view of a town in the background; according to the legend the church of Saint-Gilles was built by the king as reparation in honour of the saint who had been wounded.