London – Westminster (Borough of) – National Gallery (Saint Sabinus by Pietro Lorenzetti)

This artwork (reference NG1113) is in the National Gallery in London and they’ve had it in their collections since 1882, when it was presented to them by Charles Fairfax Murray. The full title of the painting is “Saint Sabinus before the Roman Governor of Tuscany” and the gallery thinks that it was painted between 1335 and 1342. Murray was an artist who spent some time living and working in Siena, in Italy, and it’s thought very likely that this might have been designed originally as part of an altarpiece for the city’s cathedral.

The gallery’s web-site, which is gloriously detailed, has no end of information about this painting, but I like that there was once one central panel and four altarpieces, of which this is one. The central panel is today at the Cathedral Museum in Siena, two of the panels are at the Uffizi (so, I may or may not have seen them earlier this year) and the other is lost.

The Roman Governor in the image is Venustianus and he’s sitting down on the seat with the strange-looking lions, demanding that Sabinus sacrifice one of his companions. Sabinus offered a statue, which seemingly wasn’t sufficient as Venustianus ordered his hands to be cut off. Now more commonly referred to as Saint Sabinus of Spoleto, he was later executed by Lucius, the Roman elected official. So, not exactly ideal.

Pietro Lorenzetti (?1280-1348) is apparently (I’m reading this bit on an art site, I don’t know as I’m not an art historian) an influential forerunner of the Italian Renaissance movement and he was well-known in Siena. Given that he was painting 700 years ago, a surprising number of his works are still in museums and galleries around the world today.