Portable Tryptic, c. 1375
Portable triptychs were items of devotion which were both extremely functional and common in 14th century art throughout Europe, almost always depicting a story in sequence with, in the centre, a Sacred Conversation in which the Virgin and Christ Child are accompanied by a variety of saints. The episodes shown in the side panels in this instance are the birth and death of Christ, chosen because they ideally represent the beginning and end of every man's life. In the centre, Christ and his mother are accompanied by St. John the Baptist, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Paul and another sainted martyr with a palm. The artist is Florentine master Giovanni Gaddi, the eldest son of Giotto's longest-living pupil Taddeo Gaddi. Born c. 1330 and dead by 1380, Giovanni is one of the most authentic heirs to the Tuscan tradition, to which he imparted new vigour through familiarity with the sophisticated palette of Giovanni da Milano.