di Giovanni, Benvenuto

St. John the Baptist; St. Margaret; The Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni

circa 1490

Place Made
Italy: Siena
Tempera on panel
15 3/4 x 7 1/4 in (40.01 x 18.42 cm); 15 5/8 x 7 3/16 in (39.69 x 18.26 cm); 15 5/8 x 7 1/2 in (39.69 x 19.05 cm)
Credit Line
The Samuel H. Kress Collection
Accession #

These three panels were originally placed at the corner pillars of a large altarpiece. At left is Saint John the Baptist, who is considered the first prophet of the church. As a cousin of Christ he was the first to identify him as the ‘lamb of Christ’, the agnus dei, which is partially inscribed on the scroll he holds. At center is Margaret, a saint who refused to marry in favor of preserving her virginity. Satan appeared to her in the form of a dragon, here seen underfoot. Using a cross as amulet, Margaret miraculously escaped from the belly of the dragon establishing her status as the patron saint of childbirth. At right is Ambrose Sansedoni, a Dominican preacher and one of the patron saints of Siena, where he is buried. The saint receives divine inspiration in the form of a dove speaking in his ear.

Benvenuto, is admired for a subtle use of light, here demonstrated in the facial highlights and drapery folds where light builds form and solidity and complements movement.