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Descent of the Holy Ghost, central panel of the former high altarpiece from the Church of the Holy Ghost in Csíkszentlélek (today Leliceni, Romania)

Date: 1510
Medium: pine-wood, gilded, oil-egg tempera
Dimensions: image: 170 × 134 cm with frame: 18.2 × 145 cm
Type: panel painting
Inventory number: 53.370.1
Collection: Old Hungarian Collection

The high altarpiece is among the rather rare medieval winged altars from the Hungarian Kingdom of which the identity of the patron, the date of its creation and its original location is known. The reliable source of this information is the predella where, besides the coat of arms of Jagiello Ladislaus II, the donors’ names and coats of arms, and the date of execution are visible.
A large painting occupies the centre of the retabulum. The stage-like composition enclosed by a brocade curtain and the gilded floral semicircular ornamentation, which imitates carved traceries, is ‘supported’ by slender gilded pillars and gives the illusion of a shrine, in which the group of apostles around the praying Virgin Mary can be interpreted almost as a relief. The painting presents the congregation with the story of the Pentecost. However, the real content of the composition is the perturbation that the Descent of the Holy Ghost evokes: the disciples receive the radiating, golden rays with shocked or majestically serious faces and vehement gestures, and some are moved to prayer with hands clasped. Each of the figures is characterised individually.

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