The Visitation with Saint Nicholas and Saint Anthony Abbot
- (c. 1490), oil on wood panel
- 72.5 x 74.25 in. (184 x 188 cm.)
- National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
This work was originally an altarpiece painted for the Capponi family chapel in the church of Santo Spirito in Florence. The central scene of the “Visitation” depicts the meeting of the cousins Mary and Elizabeth, the first pregnant with Jesus and the second bearing John the Baptist. The Saints sit in the foreground as studious witnesses to the event.
Saint Nicholas on the left, is identified by his attribute of three gold balls alluding to his charity towards the daughters of an impoverished nobleman, and Saint Anthony Abbot on the right, identified by his ‘tau’ cane, bell and ever-present pig companion. A detail of the pig is shown below:
About the Artist
Piero di Cosimo, Italian, (1462-1521). Cosimo, also known as Piero di Lorenzo, was an assistant to and godson of Cosimo Rosselli whose Christian name he adopted as a patronym. Little is certain of his personal history, and he has been characterized as a highly eccentric character, an abstract and unique genius, often shutting himself away to devote his time to the finer problems of his art.
The bulk of Cosimo’s commissions consisted of religious works for private devotion and secular scenes for domestic settings, he also painted a number of important altarpieces and was frequently involved in designing triumphal entries.