Collection Online
The burning of a heretic

The burning of a heretic
(1423) {-(1425/26)}

tempera and gold leaf on wood panel
24.6 × 38.7 cm
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Government of Victoria, 1976
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts
Level 1, NGV International

Commissioned in 1423 by the Arte della Lana (Wool Merchants’ Guild), for the altarpiece of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Siena, for the feast of Corpus Christi, and completed by 1426; removed to the chapel adjoining the Church of San Pellegrino, Siena, by 1517[1]; as a result of the earthquake that destroyed both the Chapel and the larger San Pellegrino Church in 1798, the altarpiece was dismantled in 1816 and subsequently dispersed[2]; private collection, before 1970; with Pinakos Inc (dealer; proprietor Rudolf Heinemann), New York, by May 1970; from where purchased by Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1970; with Thomas Agnew & Sons (dealer), London, 1970–76, stock no. J6974; label no. 39330; from where purchased, on the advice of Dr Ursula Hoff and Sir John Pope-Hennessy, for the NGV, 1976.

[1] Chapel built to house the altarpiece, 1460– (1507–17), after the Feast of the Corpus Christi transferred to the Church of San Pellegrino in 1448 by Pope Nicholas V.

[2] Unidentified wax seal on reverse of panel, indicating ownership possibly by a European royal family.

This panel is one of seven predella pictures from an altarpiece commissioned from Sassetta by Siena’s wool merchants’ guild, the Arte della Lana, in 1423. It was probably intended for the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, where Mass was celebrated at the guild’s altar on the feast of Corpus Christi. This altarpiece was dedicated to the theme of the Eucharist; here a heretic has clearly denied the orthodox theology of the true presence of Christ in the materials of the Eucharist.