Giovanni Bonsi, Madonna Enthroned with Saints

Tempera and gold on wood panel
Pinacoteca Vaticana

On the far left is St. Onophrius, identified by the inscription below and by his wildly growing hair and beard. On the near left, St. Nicholas holds the three gold balls that are his attribute. He wears a mitre even though his legends say he was forbidden to wear one because of an outburst at the Council of Nicea.

Following a tradition that was losing favor in the 14th century, Bonsi has clothed the child in regal garments: a cloth-of-gold mantle over what looks like a silk tunic. In his left hand he holds a swallow with outstretched wings, symbolic of his resurrection (Sill, 21, 26). His right is clenched on something I cannot make out, perhaps a sheaf of wheat. His mother wears the traditional blue mantle.

On the near right St. Bartholomew holds the flaying knife that is his attribute. Next to him, identified only by the inscription below, St. John the Evangelist is writing one of his works.

Dominican saints are pictured in the peaks of the four side panels; in the peak over the Madonna Christ holds an open book in his left hand and gestures to the viewer with his right. To judge from the disposition of the fingers, the gesture seems to be more oratorical than a benedictional.

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Read more about the Madonna and Child, St. Onophrius, St. Nicholas, St. Bartholomew, and St. John the Evangelist.

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