Master of Ancona Barbavara - inv. 3390
This is the door of a triptych, painted on both sides, which has been cut down to isolate the figure. The back is decorated with a red ground divided into squares with white and light-blue flowers and was repainted a long time ago.
Identifiable by gothic lettering at his feet, Saint Gaudentius is seated on the episcopal throne with a mitre, crozier and the cloth draped over the bishop’s knees during the pontifical mass. The patron saint of Novara has been positioned in the typical pose of accepting the presentation of a kneeling patron, who was probably portrayed on the central panel of the triptych.
The figure of the saint stands out from the uniform gold background, squared with delicate dots that also adorn the outlines of the crozier and his shoe, a way of working that derived from the goldsmith’s art.
This small panel is one of very few early late gothic Lombard works conserved on wood and is of exceptionally high quality.
Laid on in transparent glazes with short brushstrokes, the paintwork is typical of Giovannino de’ Grassi’s style, the most important illuminator in the Milanese duchy at the end of the fourteenth century. The abundant white lead highlights used to emphasise the pearl embroidery on the mitre, the reflections of light on the lower moulding of the throne, the folds of the drapery, and the inscription are also typical of Giovannino.
The panel is by a master active in Pavia towards the end of the fourteenth century who was very close to Giovannino de’ Grassi and Michelino da Besozzo; his conventional name derives from a panel he painted of the Virgin and Child with Donors, now in the Raleigh Museum in North Carolina, which is called the Barbavara altarpiece after the emblem of its patron.
The hairstyle and pointed drapery, together with other stylistic motifs, allow the panel to be dated to the 1390s.