These four expressive panels belong to a predella series first discussed by Michel Laclotte, who associated three panels in the Christian Museum in Esztergom with a fourth picture formerly in the collection of Alex Shaw (M. Laclotte, 'A propos de quelques primitifs méditerranées' in Études d'art français offertes à Charles Sterling, Paris, 1975, pp. 145-150). The present works, previously unpublished, provide important additional clues to the reconstruction of this once monumental altarpiece. It is likely that the figures, emphatically individualized, are apostles, each bearing an attribute that would have immediately identified him to a contemporary viewer, and it is hoped that other works from the predella will come to light in the future.
Laclotte remarked upon the Esztergom and ex-Shaw panels' rusticity and expressiveness, and noted that the works--perhaps due to the unusual decorations in the gold ground--had once been associated with the school of Avignon, but were later thought to be Spanish. Laclotte, however, rightfully doubted these suggestions, instead associating the predella with the art of late Quattrocento and early Cinquecento Piedmont, particularly that of Giovanni Martino Spanzotti. Spanzotti was a painter and sculptor of Lombard origin who is documented working in Turin in the early 16th century. His artistic influences included Francesco del Cossa, Piero della Francesca, and Bramantino, and he was instrumental in bringing these artists' Renaissance style to northern Italy which, at the time, was dominated by a traditional, French Gothic aesthetic. Spanzotti is known to have collaborated with Defendente Ferrari, and his work had a major influence on the development of Piemontese painting in the second half of the 15th century.
We are grateful to Professor Frédéric Elsig for pointing out the present panels' association with the series published by Laclotte. Professor Elsig has also endorsed the attribution to Giovanni Martino Spanzotti, suggesting a dating in the artist's early period, c. 1475.