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Francesco Pesellino, Fra Filippo Lippi and workshop, 'Saints Mamas and James', 1455–60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 142 × 64.5 cm. On loan from His Majesty The King. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2022

LONDON - The first ever exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance painter Francesco Pesellino (about1422–1457) will open at the National Gallery in December 2023.

Active in Florence in the mid-15th century, Pesellino achieved a notable career but his early death at thirty-five and the difficulty of attribution have made him one of the greatest Renaissance painters that few people have heard of. This exhibition will seek to remedy that by presenting a monographic view of Pesellino’s achievements through his works in the National Gallery Collection and a number of key loans.

Born Francesco di Stefano in around 1422, he was known as Pesellino, a diminutive of Pesello, the grandfather who raised him and likely introduced him to painting. Pesellino’s skills however far outstripped his grandfather, and it is likely that he gained experience with other masters given his ability across media.

Pesellino is noted in early biographies for his particular talent in the painting of ‘cose picole’ sic (small things), as well as his propensity for collaboration and his commissions by Florence’s ruling Medici family. These three concepts will form the key themes of the exhibition and in establishing Pesellino’s reputation as a skilful and sought after Renaissance painter.

The National Gallery is uniquely placed to introduce Pesellino’s work to a broader audience, given the presence in its collection of two of his undisputed masterpieces; two cassone panels with Stories of David, about 1445-55, and the Pistoia Trinity Altarpiece, 1455–60.

The two cassone panels, 'Stories of David', form the centrepiece of the exhibition. Probably dating from the last years of his career, they demonstrate the depth and breadth of Pesellino’s talents as a painter of complex narratives, ceremonial splendour and detail on a very small scale. Following recent conservation treatment, these panels will be redisplayed to help visitors engage with this complex and intricate work.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'The Story of David and Goliath', about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 45.5 × 179.2 cm, NG6579. © The National Gallery, London

NG6579 detail - David

Francesco Pesellino, 'The Story of David and Goliath' (Detail, David), about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 45.5 × 179.2 cm, NG6579. © The National Gallery, London

NG6579 detail - Goliath

Francesco Pesellino, 'The Story of David and Goliath' (Detail, Goliath), about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 45.5 × 179.2 cm, NG6579. © The National Gallery, London

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Francesco Pesellino, 'The Triumph of David', about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 43.3 × 177 cm, NG6580. © The National Gallery, London

NG6580 detail - David

Francesco Pesellino, 'The Triumph of David' (Detail, David), about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 43.3 × 177 cm, NG6580. © The National Gallery, London

NG6580 detail - horse

Francesco Pesellino, 'The Triumph of David' (Detail, horse), about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 43.3 × 177 cm, NG6580. © The National Gallery, London

NG6580 detail - procession

Francesco Pesellino, 'The Triumph of David' (Detail, procession), about 1445-55. Tempera on wood, 43.3 × 177 cm, NG6580. © The National Gallery, London

'The Pistoia Trinity Altarpiece' is one of the only two large-scale altarpieces Pesellino is known to have produced. Left unfinished at his death and completed by his onetime collaborator, Filippo Lippi, this is the earliest 'pala' (an altarpiece with a single main panel) in the National Gallery. As one of the few nearly complete altarpieces in the collection, the work reveals much about Pesellino’s posthumous reputation, as well as the history of acquiring art in the UK.

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Francesco Pesellino, Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'The Pistoia Trinity Altarpiece', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood. © The National Gallery, London Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2022

The exhibition will be accompanied by the first fully illustrated catalogue dedicated to the artist to be published in English. This will also be the first biography of the artist to be published in a century.

7 December 2023 – 10 March 2024

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Francesco Pesellino, Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'The Trinity', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 185.5 × 91 cm, NG727© The National Gallery, London.

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Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'Saint Jerome and the Lion: Predella Panel', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 26.5 × 40 cm, NG4868.4© The National Gallery, London.

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Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'Saint Zeno exorcising the Daughter of the Emperor Gallienus: Predella Panel (Saint Zeno exorcising the Daughter of Gallienus)', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 27.5 × 39 cmNG4868.3. © The National Gallery, London.

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Fra Filippo Lippo and Workshop, 'Saint Mamas in Prison thrown to the Lions: Predella Panel (Saint Mamas in Prison thrown to the Lions)', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 27 × 39.5 cmNG4868.1. © The National Gallery, London.

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Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'Beheading of Saint James the Great: Predella Panel', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 27.5 × 38 cmNG4868.2. © The National Gallery, London.

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Francesco Pesellino, Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'Saints Zeno and Jerome', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 84.5 × 56 cm, NG4428© The National Gallery, London.

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Francesco Pesellino, Fra Filippo Lippi and Workshop, 'Angel (Left Hand)', 1455-60. Egg tempera, tempera grassa and oil on wood, 43.5 × 61.5 cmNG3230© The National Gallery, London.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'Diptych (Annunciation)', 1455-60. Tempera on panel, 20.3 x 14.4 cm (each panel). The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) (P.1966.GP.313)© Photo © The Courtauld / Bridgeman Images.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'Stigmatism of Saint Francis and Miracle of the Black Leg', 1624-7. Tempera on panel, 32 x 94 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv: 418).  © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'Bishop holding a book and staff (Saint Augustine)'. Brown body colour, heightened with white, on beige paper 12.9 x 7.9 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Arts graphiques, inv. 9856.  © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Stéphane Maréchalle.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'Virgin and Child', about 1450. Tempera on panel, 78.5 x 59 cmMusée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.  © Lyon MBA - Photo Alain Basset.

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Francesco Pesellino, 'King Melchior Sailing to the Holy Land', about 1445-50. Tempera, oil, and gold on panel 65.1 x 69.8 cmSterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.  © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA (1955.940).