Paolo CAVAZZOLA | Saints Andrew the Apostle and Dominic [Andrea apostolo, Domenico di Guzman] (middle panel)

Verona 1486 – 1522

Saints Andrew the Apostle and Dominic [Andrea apostolo, Domenico di Guzman] (middle panel) c.1510-12
oil on panel
130.0 (h) x 62.0 (w) cm Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Legacy of Guglielmo Lochis 1866

Six male saints stand in a row on a marble plinth, with a parrot on the ground before them. All the saints are venerated for their roles in the foundation of the Church. Five lived in the first centuries of Christianity, while Saint Dominic was the twelfth-century founder of the Dominican Order. Two were apostles, James the Elder and Andrew. Anthony was a hermit, known as the founder of monasticism, Laurence was one of the seven deacons of Rome in the third century, and Nicholas of Bari was a bishop. Saint James is the most brightly dressed of the six, in a yellow tunic and red and blue mantle. He carries his Epistle tucked under his arm which bears the emblem of the all-seeing eye of God which appears in the triangle representing the Trinity. Next to him Saint Anthony wears the hermit’s drab garb, which bears a subtly rendered cross. Cavazzola has depicted an old man leaning on a T-shaped cane, carrying a bell.

In the central panel, in his typical green cloak, is Saint Andrew. He holds a Latin cross rather than the X-shaped diagonal cross typical of the saint.[1] Elderly, with scruffy grey hair and beard, he holds an open book towards the viewer, indicating his role as a preacher. Saint Dominic, in the white habit, black cloak and tonsure of his Order, holds a lily, a symbol of chastity, and a book. The brightly-coloured parrot is directly below. Because parrots can talk, they are often used as a symbol of oratory; they also represent the Immaculate Conception, as their call sounds similar to ‘Ave’, the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. On the right the elderly, bearded Saint Nicholas of Bari is resplendent in a rich red robe with intricately embroidered panels depicting other saints. He carries a bishop’s crozier and three gold balls, recalling his charity to three poor girls. Because of his gift giving he is the origin of Santa Claus. In the curl of the crozier sits a lamb holding a cross, a reference to Jesus. Next to him in a brilliant blue dalmatic stands a young Saint Laurence. He holds the martyr’s palm and a roasting grid, upon which he is fabled to have been put to death. His last words were reported as: ‘Behold, wretch, thou hast well cooked one side! Turn the other and eat.’[2]

Giovanni Valagussa observes that Cavazzola’s dazzling, limpid colours are enhanced by bright light, perhaps of the morning sun. Evidence of frequent repainting shows the artist’s dedication to achieving clarity and conveying every nuance and gradation in both colour and subject matter. This triptych may have been a youthful experiment when Cavazzola was still heavily influenced by the circle of Mantegna.[3] Elements such as the deep folds of the draperies are reminiscent of this school, while also demonstrating a debt to the Northern Italian style and the delicate luminosity of Cima da Conegliano.[4] Nothing is known about the original location of the panels. Although not particularly large, they might have been on the altar in a church, complete with a heavy gold frame. The detailed marble platform on which the group stands suggests that it was painted to mimic the architecture of the church within which the panels were to be housed.[5]


Simeran Maxwell

[1]The X-shaped cross might be typically used to distinguish him from Christ.

[2]The golden legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger (trans.), New York: Arno Press 1969, p. 442.

[3]Andrea Mantegna (1430/1431–1506).

[4]Cima da Conegliano (c.1459–c.1517). A false signature of this artist appeared on the panels when they were catalogued in the mid eighteenth century.

[5]Giovanni Valagussa, cat. 28 in I grandi veneti: Da Pisanello a Tiziano, da Tintoretto a Tiepolo. Capolavori dall’Accademia Carrara di Bergamo, Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2010, pp. 90–94.