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The Stefaneschi triptych is important because it is a work of the great master Giotto that was intended to serve as an altarpiece for one of the altars of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Its name comes from the fact that it was commissioned by Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi.
The altarpiece has a political symbolism because it is requested when the papacy was in Avignon, France, and it begins to adorn the basilica of San Pedro in order to return to bring the papacy to Rome.
The great particularity of the work are two: that Cardinal Stefaneschi is represented praying on his knees on both sides of the altarpiece in the central part and that the triptych is painted on both sides, so as not to be seen only by the faithful , but also by the priests. The chosen scenes speak mainly of the apostles Peter and Paul. They respect the non-graphical principle of polyptics, where the main subjects of sanctification and the cardinal figure in the center of the faces of the triptych and in the side panels the terrestrial figures are exhibited:
- In the rectum: Christ appears in the center on a throne, surrounded by angels and the side panels expose biblical episodes of the New Testament, mainly images of martyrs and saints.
- In the verse: Saint Peter on the throne surrounded by angels and two speakers, while the side panels expose the saints standing with their attributes.
The representation of Cardinal Stefaneschi holding this same painting suggests that he originally had a significantly more elaborate framework. The feature of containing a smaller version of itself provides one of the first known Renaissance examples of the so-called "Droste effect", common in medieval art.