Pentecost

15th century
Top panel in a polyptych of the Virgin
Palazzo Bellomo, Syracuse, Sicily

That the figures are in a room is made clear by the wooden beams above their heads. Above those beams the Holy Spirit is descending as a dove. Below, St. Peter holds a scroll in his left hand and raises his right to bless the viewer. He holds erect the three middle fingers of his blessing hand, perhaps in testimony to the Trinity.

This Pentecost is unusual for three reasons. First, it is unusual in the 15th century to have St. Peter front and center rather than the Virgin. Secondly, the "parted tongues as it were of fire" of Acts 2:3 are absent, unless one takes them to be the little circlets rimming the figures' haloes.

Finally, the cast of characters is unusual. If we count the haloes, there are 14 persons in all: twelve Apostles, the Virgin, and a woman standing behind Peter's left shoulder. Most likely that woman is St. Mary Magdalene, who is the most important member of the group of women around Jesus and who is always pictured with uncovered blond hair.

This image in full resolution
More of Pentecost

Photographed at the site by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.