Santa Barbara

Palma Vecchio (c.1480–1528)

Oil on wood


Chiesa di Santa Maria Formosa, Venice

Restored in 1992 with funding from Ethan Allen in memory of Hedy Giusti Lanham Allen

The Save Venice website explains that the “Confraternity of the Bombardiers commissioned Palma il Vecchio to make a polyptych in honor of their patroness, Saint Barbara, to adorn the altar of their chapel in Santa Maria Formosa. The polyptych, considered by some as Palma’s greatest work, depicts Saint Barbara standing on a pedestal with a cannon at her feet. The Venetian artillery prayed to Saint Barbara for protection from the perils of war and sudden death, and in turn thanked her for their victories. To the left of Saint Barbara is the figure of Saint Sebastian, who was often appealed to in Venice for protection against the plague; above is a small panel of Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of sailors. To the right of Saint Barbara is a panel with Saint Anthony Abbot, above which is a small panel of Saint Vincent Ferrer, seen as a protector against sudden death. Crowning the complex is a particularly moving image of the Pietà.”

This image is a plate in Wittemeyer (link)

  • The complete altarpiece in Santa Maria Formosa