Oratory of St. George, Padua


Oratory of St. George, Padua
(1377)
   In the 1370s, Altichiero had worked in the Church of San Antonio in Padua, painting frescoes in the St. James Chapel for Bonifazio Lupi, from a family of condottieri who served the Carrara, the city's rulers. These were such a major success that Raimondino Lupi, Bonifazio's relative, asked the artist to work for him in the Oratory of St. George, his funerary chapel. Of the scenes Altichiero executed, St. George Baptizing King Servius, the Martyrdom of St. George, and the Execution of St. George stand out. In the first, elaborate architecture serves as the backdrop for the baptism of the Libyan King Servius, his family, and members of his court agreed upon after the saint saved Servius' daughter from the dragon. The event takes place in the center of the composition, with the royal family kneeling and courtiers witnessing along the buildings' arcades. Their demeanor and facial expressions elucidate the solemnity of the moment depicted. In the Martyrdom of St. George, the saint is shown in the center stretched on a wheel, one of the many tortures from which he was delivered. In the saint's legend it is specified that, between torments, George converted others to Christianity. On the logge at either side of the massive building that serves as backdrop, he is shown engaged in this activity. His final martyrdom by decapitation is depicted in the Execution of St. George where, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers, the executioner prepares to carry out the saint's beheading. To add to the horror, a man removes his child to prevent him from witnessing the gruesome event. The frescoes in the Oratory of St. George show Altichiero's dependence on the naturalism introduced by Giotto whose frescoes in the Arena Chapel, Padua (1305), were readily available for study. Altichiero's figures are as massive and solid as those of the Florentine master, though the individualized features, complex architecture, believable depth, and sense of movement are his own elaborations.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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