Baptism of Saint Acacius, Battle of Saint Acacius against the Armenian rebels, Martyrdom of Saint Acacius and his ten thousand fellow soldiers
Francesco d'Ubertino di Bartolomeo Verdi known as Bachiacca (Florence 1494 – 1557)
Transposed into sixteenth-century clothes to make them more relatable and familiar to the faithful, the three stories unfold in horizontal sequence, like frames of a film, and should be read from left to right. It celebrates Acacius, a Roman army officer who converted to Christianity. The first scene illustrates his baptism, pictured in a similar way to Jesus's baptism in the waters of the Jordan. The second scene depicts the clash between the soldiers led by Acacius and the Armenian rebels, won by the Roman leader's troops thanks to the help of an angel sent by God. The last scene depicts Acacius, having refused to renounce his Christian faith, being crucified with ten thousand of his companions on Mount Ararat, by order of the emperor Hadrian. Although the panels are interrupted by the frame, the landscape flows smoothly throughout the composition.
In each episode, Bachiacca drew cues from the Nordic prints of Dürer and Luca di Leyda, and adapted them to his gentle, narrative painting, which came from the models of Perugino and Andrea del Sarto. The three panels were the predella (i.e. the lower band) of an altarpiece with the Crucifixion of Saint Acacius, painted in 1521 by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani by order of Alfonsina Orsini, wife of Piero de' Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who sent it to the altar of the Martyrs in the church of San Salvatore in Florence. The two Medici coats of arms are still present on the outer edges.
R.G. La France, Bachiacca. Artist of the Medici Court, Firenze 2008, pp. 164-166.