Benozzo Gozzoli: Four saints with kneeling Donors (1481)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

An altarpiece by the Italian artist Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-1497). As a port city Pisa was one of the first cities in Italy to come in contact with the plague in January 1348. The plague quickly spread from Pisa and Genua to surrounding cities and eventually all over Europe - killing millions in the period 1346-1356. Pisa itself lost about 70% of its inhabitants and many of the survivors turned to  religion for salvation. This piece is such an example. Depicted are 4 saint which are protectors against the plague. From left to right:

- Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (1246-1305), an italian Augustinian priest who is the patron saint of animals, babies, dying people, souls in purgatory
- Saint Roch (1295-1327 or 1348-1376/ 79), A French confessor who is the patron saint of dogs, falsely accused people and several diseases
- Saint Sebastian of Rome (A.D. 256-287), a Roman soldier who is the patron saint of athletes, soldiers, several diseases.
- Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), an Italian Franciscan priest who is the patron saint of advertisers, communications, compulsive gambling, respiratory problems and chest problems.

The kneeling man and woman are the 2 donors of this piece which the text in the middle explains: "QVESTI IIII·SANTI D IFENSORI / DELLA PESTILENTIA A FATTFARE / PIETRO DIBATISTA DA RIGO DIM INOE / CITADINO PISANO·M· CCCC·LXX XI·" - which is translated "Pietro di Battista d'Arrigo di Minore, citizen of Pisa, had these four saints, protectors against the plague, made in 1481"

On the books of Saint Bernardino of Siena is the text "PATER M / ANIFES / TAVI N / OMENT / VVM O / MNIB / VS· [ ]E / [ ]FA[ ] / MI[SERICORDI]AM T / VA[M] NOB / IS DOMI / NE CLE / MENTE / [ ] OSTE / NDE" which translates as "Father, I have manifested thy name unto all men [John 17:6]; merciful Lord, show us thy compassion"

Painting from 1481.