Home|Polyptych of the Life of Saint Clare (Hall 15)

Polyptych of the Life of Saint Clare (Hall 15)

This is one of the most significant pieces of European late Gothic art owned by the museum. A work that combines painting and sculpture, it features the image of Saint Clare in her Franciscan habit. Originally, it was most probably protected under a tabernacle. The painted panels used to close the tabernacle are all that remain of that structure.

On the inside of the panels, the life of the saint is outlined-specifically, the years that preceded her entry into the convent. Our description moves from left to right and from top to bottom. We see the saint's mother Hortulana, pregnant and praying before a crucifix, the moment in which an angel announces that she will give birth to a brilliant light. The baptism of the saint, in which she takes the name of Clare. Denial of fine foods corresponding to her aristocratic status, which she distributes to the poor with the help of her servant. The meeting with Saint Francis of Assisi and Clare accepting an olive branch for Palm Sunday from the hand of the bishop. The scenes on the lower section show the saint at prayer, giving money to the poor, and being received by Saint Francis in the convent where he cuts her hair.

This polyptych comes from the convent of Clarissa nuns in Calabazanos, which took in many upper class women in Palencia. Saint Clare taught her community that the privilege of being poor consisted in living without possessions or income, in the tradition of Christ. Perhaps for this reason, added emphasis is placed on the moneyed life Saint Clare renounced in order to become a nun.

It is possible that the sculpture was created in one of the studios in the Bravant area around 1500. Its high artistic quality is not reflected by the painted panels that accompany it.