A Miracle of Saint Silvester
Italian, about 1422-57
A Miracle of Saint Silvester, 1450s(?)
Oil on panel
Pesellino, the Renaissance artist whose given name was Francesco di Stefano, was influenced by his fellow Florentine painter Fra Filippo Lippi. He painted mainly small panels, usually richly colored and carefully executed. This work, along with two others (now in the Doria Pamphili collection in Rome), once formed the lower portion of a large altarpiece. (Known as a predella, this section generally consisted of narrative scenes that elaborate on the altar's main theme.) The three panels illustrate episodes in the life of Saint Silvester, who was pope from 314 to 335 during the reign of Constantine the Great. In the Worcester painting Silvester is seen kneeling in prayer before a bull, which he miraculously restores to life in a contest with a magician. By his action Silvester convinces Constantine, who sits at the far left, and his mother, Helen, seated at the extreme right, that they were correct in converting to Christianity. The entire scene takes place in a Renaissance-style loggia, or arcaded gallery.