(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)

The Story of St Nicholas

Tempera and gold on panel, 34 x 60 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

The large altarpiece, called Perugia Triptych and executed for the Cappella di San Niccolò of the church San Domenico at Perugia, contained three main panels, a predella with three pictures, and two decorated side pilasters. It was dismembered in later centeries. The majority of the parts are in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria at Perugia, while two of the predella paintings are in the Vatican.

The central part of the triptych represents the Madonna with the Child and Angels, while on the side parts four saints are shown. The predella depicts the story of St Nicholas.

The first predella painting (this picture) shows the birth of St Nicholas (on the left), The Vocation of St Nicholas (in the center) and the Giving Dowry to Three Poor Girls (on the right).

This scene refers to the most popular legend concerning this fourth-century churchman. He reputedly tossed bags of gold through the open window of a house, providing the three women who lived within with dowries and thus saving them from turning to prostitution. The event is shown, with two other scenes from the saint's life, in one of the predella panels from the altarpiece.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.