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Giovanni di Paolo

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Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Saving a Shipwreck, 1457

About the Artwork

Giovanni di Paolo appears to have had access to a copy of the first-hand accounts of the miracles of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino in which witnesses vividly describe the terror of the shipwreck—the rolling waves, broken masts, and flying sails—and the radiant light emanating from the saint who came to save them. The artist, however, embellished the scene by adding the naked siren swimming in the foreground, enticing sailors to steer off course. The picture’s dreamlike quality made it an appropriate selection for the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1936. Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 100.

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