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Kress Collection

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Neri di Bicci

(Florence, Italy, 1418 - January 4, 1492, Florence, Italy)

The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, c. 1458-1459
Tempera on panel
8 3/8 in. x 20 1/2 in. (21.27 cm. x 52.07 cm.)

Creation Place: Europe, Italian
Technique: Painting
Credit Line: Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1961
Accession Number: P61.1.7

The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia depicts an actual event that took place in the year 249. Apollonia, refusing to renounce Christanity, was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Philip. Under a colonnaded portico, one executioner pulls the Virgin Martyr backward by her hair as another tears out her tongue with pincers. The Emperor and his armed guards look on at the right of the scene, and two more armed soldiers stand to the left. In the background is a rugged and mountainous landscape.

The artist, Neri di Bicci, has arranged the figures in a single line, the bright colors of their garments and weapons contrasting sharply with the plain white of the wall behind them. The vibrant colors of the scene suggest a gaiety at odds with the gruesome subject.

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