World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Stefaneschi Triptych

Article Id: WHEBN0026740216
Reproduction Date:

Title: Stefaneschi Triptych  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Vatican Museums, Triptych, Mise en abyme, Droste effect
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Stefaneschi Triptych

The Stefaneschi Altarpiece is a triptych by the Italian medieval painter Giotto, commissioned by Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi[1] to serve as an altarpiece for one of the altars of Old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

It is now at the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome.


It is a rare example in Giotto's work of a documented commission, and includes Giotto's signature, although the date, like most dates for Giotto, is disputed, and many scholars feel the artist's workshop was responsible for its execution.[2] It had long been thought to have been made for the main altar of the church; more recent research suggests that it was placed on the "canon's altar", located in the nave, just to the left of the huge arched opening into the transept.[3] The altar was freestanding, and the altarpiece is painted on both sides so it could be seen by the congregation from the front and the canons of the church from the back.

The central front panel represents St. Peter enthroned, flanked by saints, with Cardinal Stefaneschi at his right offering up this altarpiece. Sts. James and Paul are in the left panel and John the Evangelist and Andrew are in the right. 2 of the 3 predella panels are lost, but they surely all represented half-length figures of saints. The back main (central) panel represents Christ enthroned flanked by angels with a kneeling Cardinal Stefaneschi at his right foot. In the left panel we see the crucifixion of Peter, and on the right is the beheading of St. Paul. The predella depicts the Virgin and Child flanked by angels in the center and standing figures of the 12 apostles at the sides.

The altarpiece stood before the apse of Old St. Peter's, which in the 14th century contained a mosaic of Christ enthroned between Sts. Peter & Paul. Thus the iconography of the front of the painting paralleled the apse mosaic in form but did not repeat it in iconography. The central panel of the back of the altarpiece duplicated the apse mosaic for those who could not see it (because they sat with their backs to it), while the side panels introduced narratives. It was normal for double-sided altarpieces in this period to have an iconic image on the front and narrative images on the back.[4] Peter echoes Christ's pose to emphasize the role of the pope (Peter was the first pope) as Christ's representative on earth.[5]

Giotto represents the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul as taking place in recognizable locales, frequently visited by pilgrims to Rome. Peter's crucifixion is placed between the Meta romuli (a pyramid near the Vatican, destroyed in the 15th century) and the obelisk that came from Nero's Circus, while Paul's beheading is outside the city, near a round building that symbolizes the saint's prison. These scenes could also be found in the medieval frescoes on the walls of the nave of Old St. Peter's.[6]). Although images of donors in church decorations in Rome went back to the Early Christian period, Giotto's altarpiece for St. Peter's is unusual in both the double representation of the donor (front and back) and the specificity of the face and costume of Cardinal Stefaneschi. Stefaneschi is dressed in full ceremonial costume as a cardinal on the front, appropriate for the "public" face of the altarpiece and is introduced to St. Peter by St. George. On the back, he is more modestly dressed as a canon, like the audience for this side of the painting. Vasari cited portraiture as one of the greatest strengths of Giotto's art.[7]

Since Stefaneschi is holding this very painting, the image shows us that it originally had quite an elaborate frame, which would have made the relatively small altarpiece fit better into the large space that was Old St. Peter's. It is one of the earliest known examples of the so called "Droste effect".



  • Boskovits, Miklos, "Giotto a Roma", Arte Cristiana, 88 (2000) 171-180.
  • Gardner, Julian, "The Stefaneschi Altarpiece: A Reconsideration", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 37, (1974), pp. 57-103.
  • Gosebruch, M., "Giottos Stefaneschi-Altarwerk aus Alt-St. Peter in Rom", Miscellanea Bibliotecae Hertzianae, Munich, 1961, 101-130.
  • von den Haegen, Anne Mueller, Giotto di Bondone, trans. Lena Miller, Cologne, 1998, 80-85.
  • Kemp,W., "Zum Program von Stefaneschi-Altar und Navicella", Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 30 (1967) 309-320.
  • Kempers, Bram & Sible de Blauuw. "Jacopo Stefaneschi, Patron and Liturgist: A New Hypothesis Regarding the Date, Iconography, Authorship, and Function of His Altarpiece for Old St. Peter's", Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome 47 (1987) 83-113.
  • Kessler, Herbert L., "Giotto e Roma", in Giotto e il Trecento: "Il più Sovrano Maestro stato in dipintura", exh. cat., ed. Alessandro Tomei, Milan, 2009, 85-99.
  • Maginnis, Hayden B.J., "Giotto's World through Vasari's Eyes", Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 56 Bd., H. 3 (1993), pp. 385-408.
  • Paoletti, John T. & Gary Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, 3rd ed., London, 2005.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.