St. Nicholas and stories from his life
Tempera on wood
The icon, restored by Colarieti Tosti in 1919, together with the Santa Margherita (cat., Apulian painting, 4) and the Madonna with Child (cat., Apulian painting, 8) comes from the noble church of Santa Margherita in Bisceglie, founded in 1197 da Falco, of the noble Falcone family. Later passed, together with the church, in the property of the Sifola, the Frisari and finally the Berarducci counts, it was purchased in 1964 by the Province of Bari and destined for the Pinacoteca, which promoted its restoration, curated by the then Superintendence of Monuments and to the Gallerie della Puglia, which took place in 1967. The support, unusually thin or perhaps thinned on the back with a rudimentary gouge, has on the front a lowered central area compared to a large band that surrounds it like a frame. A groove profile 1 strip, of which a portion remains on the right margin, was applied to the entire outer margin. The removal, in 1967, of the heavy antiquing patina dating back to the intervention of Colarieti Tosti restored its chromatic appearance to the image and brought to light large areas hitherto hidden by the stucco; but at the same time highlighted the irreparable damage suffered by the painting. A conspicuous gap separates the central image from the left side frame, at the junction of the panels, while the scenes in the lower band are strongly incomplete. Other drops of color affect the upper margin, corresponding to the first four scenes of the cycle. In the central field the background gold, almost completely fallen, is replaced by a yellowish background that humiliates the preciousness of the table. The backgrounds of the scenes are in better condition, where large traces of the original gold can still be seen on which Latin inscriptions traced in red stand out in a fragmentary state. The central part houses the holosome figure of the saint, in a frontal position, dressed in bishop's robes with cross-shaped omophorion falling on the front. With his right hand he blesses in the Greek style while holding the volume of the Gospels in the veiled left. On the sides of the white head and surrounded by a halo, reduced to a simple disc now devoid of the original gilding, the small figures of Christ and the Virgin stand out, one handing the book, the other the omophorion, insignia removed from the saint, according to the legendary tradition, following his angry excesses towards Arius during the Council of Nicaea. On the high relief band that forms the frame, the scenes of life and miracles are arranged according to an order of reading from left to right, by registers (instead of according to a continuous reading of the four bands, as in the Byzantine examples) and with a particular research rhythmic correspondences between the pairs of scenes which are entrusted with the representation of the various episodes.