Martino MARTINO DI BARTOLOMEO
Seven Scenes from the Legend of St. Stephen
early 15th c.
Mixed technique on poplar
Inv. No. 988-994
Whereas only one panel from the predella of this altarpiece made its way into the Städel Museum, a series of eight panels executed some fifty years later by the Sienese painter Martino di Bartolomeo (ca. 1370–1434/35) survived in near entirety – only the central panel is missing. The work depicts the Legend of St. Stephen in an extremely – and unusually – lively manner. Already the story alone is characterized by sprightly inventiveness. In these visualizations of the exchange of the infant Stephen for a changeling, the abduction by the devil, Bishop Julian’s finding of the true child being suckled by a hind, the destruction of the pagan idols, the departure from Bishop Julian, the return to the parental home, the burning of the changeling, the dispute with the libertines, and finally, the martyrdom of the saint by stoning, great pleasure has been taken in the description of detail.