Luca di Tommè, The Annunciation with Saints

1370-80
Tempera on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

The most interesting of the flanking figures is the young man with the sword. The Uffizi's label identifies him as St. Thomas. This apostle is usually pictured as a man in middle age with a beard, and his attribute will be either a carpenter's square or a spear. Here he is a beardless youth with a bloody sword. The spear features in his martyrdom in an early vita, but the Golden Legend says a pagan priest "ran him through" (transverberavit) with a sword, so the artist not only gives him a sword but makes it bloody from the tip all the way to the hilt.

Also of interest is St. Nicholas, the man in the green chasuble. Sometimes his attribute is a barrel, reflecting a story of his having restored three boys who had been cut up by a murderous innkeeper. But it is rare for the barrel to be pictured in miniature like this. As a bishop NIcholas holds a crozier, but he has no mitre because of a story that it was forbidden him by the Council of Nicea.

St. Francis is on the left, pictured as usual with his stigmata and Franciscan habit. The man on the right is thought to be an evangelist because of his book.

The Annunciation scene mostly follows tradition, except for the absence of an element dividing the two figures. It is unusual although not unprecedented for the angel to cross his arms as here; usually when one sees that gesture in an Annunciation it is the Virgin's. The book in her hand has a passage from Luke 1:37, Ecce ancilla domini fiat mic[hi secundum verbum] t[uum], "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."

Above the scene Isaiah on the left holds a banderole with his words ecce virgo concipiet, "Behold a virgin shall conceive" (Isaiah 7:14). On the right is Jeremiah's prophecy, puer natus est nobis, "To us a child is born" (Jeremiah 20:15). The other prophets pictured were all believed to have prophesied Christ's birth.

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Read more about the Annunciation, St. Francis, St. Nicholas, and St. Thomas.

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