15 Feb 2021

Volunteer Views:
St Andrew Praying before his Martyrdom

I was so very excited to return to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) as a visitor when it reopened in October for a month, the visit confirmed for me that my favourite space is most definitely still the 17th Art Gallery.

Baroque Art Gallery

One of the pieces in this gallery that most stands out to me is the artwork St Andrew Praying before his Martyrdom by Carlo Dolci. I thought, as we cannot currently go and see it in person, that I would share my feelings about the piece with you.

St Andrew Praying before his Martyrdom, 1643. By Carlo Dolci

The colours on this piece are so vivid; it is almost as though it had just been finished yesterday. Of all the pieces of art in this gallery I personally find it the most interesting to study. If you look close enough you will see that there is a miniature self portrait of the artist just under St Andrew’s right hand. It is not certain why Dolci chose to include himself in this specific version, as there are at least three versions of this piece and this is the only version with the self-portrait.

Another interesting part of this amazing artwork are the number of different faces and expressions featured within it. The symmetry within the painting is also worth noting, as your eyes wander around the work, but they always come back to Saint Andrew.

The piece was produced for the Venetian art market and as I have mentioned it was reproduced at least three times, it was the artists first introduction to Venetian Art. Dolci’s initial version of this piece was commissioned by his friend and patron, Paolo Del Sera, and is currently held in a private collection in New York.

Many visitors to the gallery have commented to me that they think the colours of this piece of art are fantastic and they cannot believe that it was painted some four hundred years ago. It must be said that the materials used to make the paints were of the highest quality for the time and this certainly shows.

In conclusion I have to say that there really are some magnificent pieces to choose from in the 17th Art Gallery, but for me it is this piece really draws me in. Why not take a look at it yourself, or find your own favourite, and take a visit using the BMAG virtual tour?