Pesellino: A Renaissance Master Revealed ★★★★ The National Gallery | Dec 7, 2023 - Mar 10, 2024 (Free Entry)


For the first time in six hundred years, this master of the narrative painting gets a solo exhibition. Pesellino was destined to greatness, but his career was unfortunately cut short when he died of the plague in 1457. His output was thus relatively small and attribution of his work has often been challenging. To celebrate the restoration of Pesellino's two masterpieces, The Story of David and Goliath (1445-55) and The Triumph of David (1445-55), The National Gallery has mounted a small gem of an exhibition which should bring this extraordinary artist a number of new admirers. The two panels at the centre of the show chronicle the Biblical story of David and confirm the artist's virtuosity at handling colour and composition. They also demonstrate his wonderful gift for characterisation. One can only wonder if the story of David's youthful triumph resonated with Pesellino who was also achieving success at such a young age. These two works include various references to his patrons, the Medici, who were among the supporters of his brief, but remarkable, career. And another work, Virgin and Child (c. 1455), also suggests that the young artist definitely had a head for the business side of things. Here he collaborated with two other painters to create a work that was probably intended for replication as devotional pieces for the mass market. Also on display is Pesellino's only documented work, The Pistoia Altarpiece: The Trinity with Saints Mamas, James, Zeno and Jerome; Saint Mamas in Prison thrown to the Lions; The Beheading of Saint James the Great; Saint Zeno exorcising the Daughter of Gallienus; Saint Jerome and the Lion (1455-60). This magnificent piece was completed by the artist's frequent collaborator Fra Filippo Lippi, as were other works exhibited in the show. This is a singular exhibition that shouldn't be missed. It offers a splendid opportunity to discover, or reacquaint yourself, with a Renaissance painter who is too little known and has been long underappreciated.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Francesco Pesellino, The Triumph of David (c. 1445–55) © The National Gallery, London

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