AUTHOR: Andrea del Castagno, Francesco da Faenza

CENTURY: 15th century

CHURCH: Church of San Zaccaria

DATE: 1442

LOCATION: Chapel of San Tarasio (on map number 16)


The frescoes in the sail vault and the intrados, signed and dated by the two artists, respectively depict a series of Prophets with the Father Eternal in the center and Heads of Prophets. Andrea’s painting, characterized by plastic, volumetric, and monumental values, stands out in its expressive simplicity in the spaces of the apse, not integrating, however, with the lush chromaticism of the polyptychs. The connection between the frescoes and the polyptychs is iconological: the representations of God the Father, in a frontal position and enclosed in a mandorla, the Four Evangelists suspended among the clouds, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Zaccaria refer to the complex sequence of prophets and saints in the polyptychs. The intrados of the apse arch presents ten busts of prophets and saints enclosed in garlands enriched with lemniscates and supported by angels.


The reasons why the nuns of the San Zaccaria convent chose a young “outsider” painter like the Florentine Andrea del Castagno, certainly talented but not yet particularly famous at the time, are not clear. Surely the good relations of Doge Francesco Foscari with Florence or perhaps agreements between the Benedictine monasteries of Venice and Sant’Apollonia in Florence played a decisive role in the artist’s appointment.