Bigallo Triptych: Unusual Details and Heroes

Triptych Bigallo
Bernardo Daddi. Bigallo Triptych. 1333. Loggia del Bigallo in Florence.

Next to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence is the Loggia del Bigallo. In the very center of the city.

The loggia was built in the middle of the 13th century. And it housed a charitable society. It was engaged in the search for parents for abandoned children. It was here that children were brought, whom biological parents could not feed.

Lost children also came to this loggia. Or they were brought here by caring people who found crying and lonely children on the streets of Florence.

All the inhabitants knew – if your child is lost, go to the Loggia del Bigallo. There are many chances that you will find it there.

And in 1333, a married couple ordered a triptych for this loggia. It was created by master Bernardo Daddi (1290-1348).

So, obviously at the insistence of these customers, the artist changed the canons. And instead of the Annunciation in the upper part of the triptych, he depicted the story of the “Miracle of St. Nicholas.”

Bernard Daddy. Triptych Bigallo. Fragments of the "Miracle of St. Nicholas". 1333.
Bernardo Daddi. Bigallo Triptych. Fragments of the “Miracle of St. Nicholas”. 1333. Wikimedia Commons.

The story is this: one man prayed to St. Nicholas to give him a child. Soon his wife gave birth to a son.

But when the boy grew up, he was captured by another tribe. He began to serve the king of this tribe.

And one day at a feast, the unfortunate child told this king that he missed his relatives. After all, it was the day of St. Nicholas. He told his master that once his father begged him from this particular saint.

The king reacted coldly. He said, there was nothing to whine, and he would always be in his service. And no saint would help him anymore.

At that moment a hurricane arose and destroyed the king’s house. He also picked up the boy and carried him away.

The boy came to his senses next to his parents’ house. They were just sitting at the table and celebrating the day of St. Nicholas.

There was no end to their joy. After all, St. Nicholas returned their son!

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It is very logical that this story was depicted in the painting in the house where the children found their parents.

But something tells me that the customers ordered such a luxurious triptych with such a plot for a reason. We see them at the feet of the Virgin.

Bernard Daddy. Triptych Bigallo. Detail with customers. 1333. Loggia Bigallo.
Bernardo Daddi. Bigallo Triptych. Detail with customers. 1333. Loggia del Bigallo. Wikimedia Commons.

They may have lost their child too. And maybe even found it! And in gratitude to the charitable society, as well as to St. Nicholas, to whom they prayed, they ordered this triptych.


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