Boccaccio Boccaccino (Ferrara 1466? - Cremona 1524/1525)
The panel, together with its companion piece, a painting of St John the Evangelist (Contini Bonacossi Inventory no. 14), was perhaps part of an altar piece, even if past tampering with the wooden support does not permit a more detailed hypothesis. The saint’s identity, generally thought to be the evangelist, St Matthew, is not completely certain, given that in place of the traditional apostle’s robe of tunic and cloak, he is dressed in priestly vestments. This may allude to the martyrdom of St Matthew, which occurred in Ethiopia, while he was celebrating mass in the temple. A youth is close to the saint, dressed in a cloak over a white robe and holding a scepter: this is perhaps the angel who represents St Matthew in the tetramorph, who appeared in visions to the prophet Ezekiel and John of the Revelations, or he could be the son of the King of Ethiopia, resuscitated by Matthew.
Restoration has returned the bright colors to the fabrics and the wealth of particularly precious decorative details, such as the pearls on the cope worn by the saint.