Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Stories from the Life of St. Nicholas

Tempera on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

The four panels are arranged as shown above. Below is a discussion of each one.
Left upper: St. Nicholas secretly throws money into the house of a poor man who feared he would have to prostitute his daughters. This appears to be the first night, when the father tells the eldest daughter that he will use the money for her dowry. The other daughters continue to grieve over what may happen to them. Other images sometimes picture the money as balls of gold, but here it is in the form of gold wrapped in a cloth, as stated in this passage in the Golden Legend. The Legend never specifies that the gold is thrown in through a window, but that is what is assumed in this and other images.

Left lower: St. Nicholas is consecrated as a bishop. He is in the left foreground, with the same red robe and blond page-boy haircut as in the previous picture. As in this passage in the Golden Legend, the bishop in blue tells Nicholas that he is to be the new bishop of Myra. The bishop had been told in a dream to choose the first man who arrived at the church at matins. In the background, the bishops on the right and left prepare to give Nicholas his new mitre and crozier. He now wears blue as he kneels before the tonsured priest at the altar.

Right upper: St. Nicholas restores a boy to life. This illustrates a miracle effected on the feast of St. Nicholas, some time after the saint's death. In the story, a man was at dinner when he saw a pilgrim begging outside. He sent his boy to give him alms. In the upper left the boy proffers a coin to the pilgrim, who is actually a devil. The devil then strangles the child to death, in the lower left. But at the man's prayer in the lower right St. Nicholas raises the dead child to life. The saint's intercession is pictured by the rays that cross diagonally from the saint (in the upper left) to the boy on the bed: one ray to the dead boy and one to the boy now recalled to life. In the background the mother is pictured once as she prays at the dead boy's bedside and again when she sees him stand up.

Right lower: The Miracle of the Grain. In this passage the Legend tells of how St. Nicholas prevailed on certain mariners to share with the people of Bari some of the grain they were carrying to "the Emperor in Alexandria." At the time, Bari was suffering from a famine. He assured the mariners that when they arrived in Alexandria they would have the full measure expected. And they did.

View in full resolution the panels on the gift of gold, Nicholas consecrated, the strangled boy, and the miracle of the grain.
Read more about St. Nicholas.

Photographed at the Uffizi by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.