Master of the Barbavara Altarpiece - inv. 3390
This is the door of a triptych, painted on both sides, cut down to isolate the figure. The back is decorated with a red ground divided into squares with white and light-blue flowers and has been partially repainted a long time ago.
Identifiable by the gothic inscription, Saint Gaudentius is seated on the episcopal throne with mitre, crozier and gremial, the cloth that a Bishop should wear over his lap. The patron saint of Novara is in the pose of presenting a kneeling patron, probably portrayed on the central panel of the triptych.
The saint stands out against a gold background, squared with delicate dots that also adorn the outlines of the crozier, a technique derived from goldsmith’s art.
This small panel of exceptionally high quality is one of the very few early Lombard Late Gothic works still surviving. The transparent layers made with short brushstrokes are typical of the style of Giovannino de’ Grassi, the most important book illuminator of the Milanese dukedom in the late fourteenth century. Also typical of Giovannino are the many 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.
The panel is by a master, active in Pavia in the late fourteenth century, very close to Giovannino de’ Grassi and Michelino da Besozzo; his conventional name derives from a panel with the Virgin and Child with a Donor (now in the Raleigh Museum in North Carolina) 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.