Renaissance Altarpiece

Virgin and Child with Six Saints (photo by Craig Harrold)

The Renaissance painting which hangs on the north wall of the Chapel is one of the treasures of St. James Cathedral.  The painting dates from 1456, and is the work of Florentine artist Neri di Bicci.  It depicts the Madonna and Child, flanked by six saints:  Luke, Bartholomew and Lawrence on the left; John the Baptist, Martin, and Sebastian on the right.  This subject – a very familiar one in Renaissance art – is known as a sacra conversazione, a “holy conversation,” as saints of many different times and places are imagined in “conversation” with Mary and Jesus.


The painting underwent a major restoration in 2005 at the Seattle Art Museum, where it was featured as the centerpiece of an exhibit on devotional art of the Renaissance.  The images of St. John the Baptist, above, show the painting as it appeared before (left) and after (right) restoration.

Virgin and Child (detail) (Photo by Craig Harrold)

The provenance of the painting is unknown, but it has hung in the Cathedral Chapel since 1950.