Legnanino (Stefano Maria Legnani), St. Augustine Washes the Feet of Jesus

Dated 1708 by the photographer
Church of St. Mark, Milan

This painting appears to be based on a variant of one of the miracles ascribed to Augustine's relics in the Golden Legend and the Acta Sanctorum.1 In the more common version, forty pilgrims journey toward Rome to be healed of an unspecified disease. They stop for the night in a village near Pavia, where a vision of St. Augustine tells them to go to his tomb in the city, where they will be cured.

In the painting we see an event that does involve pilgrims (note the various staffs and the shell on Jesus' shoulder), and it does take place outside a city. But the story behind it is clearly different from the common one. Unlike the Augustine shown here in an Augustinian habit (if he really is Augustine), the saint of the Pavia miracle wears his "pontificals" – the elaborate vestments that bishops wear for the most important ceremonies. Neither the Legend nor the Acta has any story involving the washing of the feet of Christ or anyone else, but such a story must have been current at the time when this image was painted.

Another mystery is the baptism taking place behind the main group. The shape of the baptismal font echoes that of the laver to Augustine's left, and of course liturgically significant water is key to both scenes. But again, neither the Acta nor the Legend tells of Augustine or his companions baptizing a child.2

Read more about images of St. Augustine.

Source: "Sarah K," Pinterest

1Acta Sanctorum, August vol. 8, 367. The story is not in Caxton's translation of the Legend, which lacks all but two of the miracles in the version translated by Ryan (128-131, Pavia miracle at 131) from Graesse (561-6, Pavia miracle at 565).

2An unfortunately truncated photograph of the painting appears on Wikimedia Commons and has been copied to a number of other sites. It omits some of the right side of the painting, so that the baptism is not in evidence.