Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saint Mark

Title: Saint Mark

Artist: Bicci Di Lorenzo

Medium: Tempera on wood

Size: 80 x 80cm

Date: 1398

Location: Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence.

Mark the Evangelist is the traditional name of the author of the Gospel of Mark. Tradition identifies him with the John Mark mentioned as a companion of Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who was Mark’s cousin, on Paul's first missionary journey. After a sharp dispute, Barnabas separated from Paul, taking Mark with him to Cyprus. Later, according to Coptic tradition, Mark made his way to Alexandria, where the people are said to have resented his efforts to turn them away from the worship of their traditional Egyptian gods. In AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

This painting was one of six wood quatrefoils representing the saints originally included on the wood baldachin which surmounted the altarpiece of the Holy Mary of the Graces. Though not attracted per se to the artistic ideals and innovations of the Renaissance, di Lorenzo still placed an importance on the realism of his figures, as this painting readily displays. Depicted on a typically grand golden background, Mark himself looks saintly, but also rather lifelike, rather human.

Bicci di Lorenzo (1373-1452) was an Italian painter and sculptor, active in Florence. He was the son of the painter, Lorenzo di Bicci, whose workshop he joined. He married in 1418, and in 1424 was registered in the Guild of Painters at Florence. Bicci di Lorenzo died in 1452, but already for some years the running of the workshop had passed to his son Bicci di Neri, who continued its fortunes for the whole of the second half of the century, by traditional methods.

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