Juraj Culinovic called Giorgio Schiavone - inv. 1593
Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) is shown in profile and half length. Immediately after his death, the cult of the Franciscan preacher spread widely and many paintings and sculptures are known dating to before his canonisation in 1450. Wherever he went, he spread the monogram of Christ, the letters ‘IHS’ (Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus Saviour of Men) surrounded by rays. For this he was often accused of instigating a superstitious cult, although he never lacked the support of the Holy See.
S. Bernardino was especially linked to the Veneto region and to Padua. In April 1443, among others in the latter town, he met Francesco Squarcione, then head of the most famous artist’s workshop there. In Squarcione’s circle a specifically Paduan iconography of the saint was developed which possibly originated, though indirectly, from a portrait of the saint painted from life by Squarcione. The work in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is one of the most interesting examples of this typology.
In this work, Giorgio Schiavone, a painter from Dalmatia and active in Squarcione’s workshop from 1446, takes up a model Andrea Mantegna had worked with a few years earlier, in a painting now in the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo (attributed to Dario da Pordenone). In both works, the portrait of the saint is characterised by an almost pitiless realism typical of the Paduan painting style in mid century.