Datable to 1482, this painting (with Saint Paul, inv. 1605) is a panel of a polyptych, which most probably had at its centre a Virgin and Child. This is one of the most beautiful works by Bartolomeo Montagna, a painter from Vicenza active from the 1470s to the first decades of the next century, and undoubtedly considered the most prestigious artist in the city at that time. Saint Paul stands out against a light-blue sky with clouds, and a city of Renaissance-style architecture in the background.
The work is striking for the monumentality of the figure, helped by the spectator’s lowered viewpoint, placed at the height of the saint's knees, and the ample drapery emphasising the volume of the figure. The exceptional sculptural quality that characterises the work, brings it close to sculptural production in Vicenza during the years spanning the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Another remarkable element in the this panel is the use of light, strongly influenced by knowledge of Giovanni Bellini’s works. It is a sunny light that harmonises with the colours of the flesh, the draperies and the landscape in the warm tones of sunset.
The figure of Saint Paul, on the other hand, would be used by the artist in one of his later works, the great altarpiece of Santa Maria in Vanzo in Padua, datable to about 1514.
S. G. C.