Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo Da Ponte)
St. Martin and the Poor Man with St. Anthony Abbot

Oil on canvas
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, Italy

A Roman soldier of the 4th century at the time of this encounter, St. Martin is pictured in the armor of a 16th-century knight. With his sword, he cuts off half of his red cloak to give to the poor man. That night in a dream Martin will learn that the poor man was Christ himself.

In the lower left St. Anthony reads from a large book while an even larger one lies at his feet. Bassano paired these two seemingly unrelated saints in several paintings throughout his career. The point of these pairings may have been to exemplify the active and contemplative lives, the two modes of Christian living first proposed by Gregory the Great in the 6th century and much debated throughout the Middle Ages.2

One might wonder whether the poor man's garment is what he was wearing when Martin met him, or simply the half-cloak now pulled around his body. The answer can be found in a nearly identical painting in the University of Nebraska's Sheldon Art Museum.3 The Sheldon's painting is ascribed to the Bassano workshop and also dated circa 1580. In it the poor man's garment is clearly of a different thickness and color, a very light pink, than St. Martin's thick red cloak.

The date given above corresponds to the one given on museum's label: "XVI sec. (ottavo decenno)." A site on the web dates it as 1578.

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Read more about images of St. Martin of Tours.
Read more about images of St. Anthony Abbot.

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

1 "Virgin and Child with the Saints Martin of Tours and Anthony the Great" (1542-43). The painting is in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. A photograph is available at this page on Wikimedia Commons (retrieved 2022-06-11).

2 See the note on this subject on our St. Martin page.

3 Studio of Jacopo Bassano. Saint Martin Dividng His Cloak with a the Beggar, c. 1580, oil on canvas, 99.4 x 85.8 cm (39-1/8 x 33-3/4 in), Samuel H. Kress Collection, Sheldon Museum of Art, accessed June 11, 2022, https://www.kressfoundation.org/kress-collection/artwork/a251faf1d0dc107fb6d972e6e7d8e5746c235ab0fb4b9f44b85f6c36101b4716.