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Fellow Painter

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In the church of S. Maria of Ponte,
the Four Evangelists on a vault in the N aisle.

At first glance, this painted vault, probably of the 15c, couldn't be more standard: the four compartments of a Gothic vault are perfectly suited to the depiction of the four writers of the Gospel. Each evangelist is represented with his animal and a banner with his name on it; with my photos and my eyes, I can only read S. MACTEVS (sic) and S. LVCAS: we'll compromise by saying the fresco needs restoration.

And as in any other Four Evangelists composition, they are shown writing or rereading their work. . .

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. . . except for St. Luke, who is painting a Madonna and Child.

Now there's an old tradition that St. Luke was a painter: not old enough to have any grounds in reality, necessarily, but it was first said in the 9c and since painters controlled the advertising media, so to speak, it became popular.

One painting of the Madonna and Child exists, in multiple old copies, that is actually said to have been done by the evangelist. It looks nothing like the one we see being painted here; the chapter "The Madonna del Popolo di Montefalco" in Corrado Ricci's Umbria Santa is given over to a thorough discussion of it, and includes a photograph.

So it's not that unusual to find St. Luke shown painting; what's very rare, though, is to see the logical scheme of these vaults overridden by the artist this way: the whole point of them is to associate the writers of the Gospel — not three writers of the Gospel and someone who liked to paint. 
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Page updated: 11 Jan 13