Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Central Panel from the Humility Polyptych - Umilta and a lay patron
  • Creator: Lorenzetti, Pietro, painter, attributed to
  • Description: Umiltà of Faenza (born Rosanese Negusanti) was an abbess and holy woman. In Florence, she founded the Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista, a Vallombrosan house for women. The Humility Polyptych was constructed to celebrate Humility’s life and miracles. It is made up of fourteen panels that narrate her life story, starting with her separation from her husband in Faenza, and ending with her death in Florence. The larger, central panel depicts Umiltà holding a book in one hand and a palm frond in the other. She wears the Vallombrosian habit and a lambskin on her head. Eileen Power in Medieval English Nunneries cites a description of the clothing of a prioress including a cap of estate trimmed with lambskin. Cordelia Warr argues that the female donor at the saint's feet is a laywoman, possibly a widow, judging by her clothing. The other panels of the polyptych show Umiltà engaging in many different female roles – wife, mother, abbess, recluse, incarcerate. The variety of her roles, in addition to her miracles, ensured Umiltà’s appeal to a large section of the populace. Furthermore, the iconography of these panels was directed towards women because they were the primary audence viewing this polyptych.
  • Source: Wikigallery
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Abbesses Books Hagiography Monasticism Patronage, Artistic Umilta of Faenza, Mystic and Saint Vallombrosian Order Women in Religion
  • Geographic Area: Italy
  • Century: 14
  • Date: 1335-1340
  • Related Work: Humility Polyptych. See a reconstruction of the polyptych on the Feminae website.
  • Current Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
  • Original Location: Florence, Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista, a Vallombrosan house for women founded by Umiltà
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Paintings
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Polyptych; Wood panel
  • Donor: Lay woman? [Cordelia Warr in her article cited above suggests the kneeling donor figure in the polyptych is a lay woman based on her clothing, pp. 296-297.]
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 128 cm/57 cm/
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources: Cordelia Warr, “Viewing and commissioning Pietro Lorenzetti’s Saint Humility Polyptych,” Journal of Medieval History 26, 3 (2000);
    Andrian S. Hoch, "Notable Changes in Medieval Images of "Saint" Humility after Counter-Reformation Documents," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 75, 1 (2012): Pages 1 - 32;
    Janet G. Smith, "Santa Umilta of Faenza: Her Florentine Convent and Its Art", IN Visions of Holiness: Art and Devotion in Renaissance Italy. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2001;