Bartolomeo Bulgarini (Siena, before 1338-1378)
St. Peter, identified by the inscription on the wide bottom board, carries a book and the keys to the kingdom of heaven, typical attributes of the prince of the apostles. The figure is framed by a poly-lobate arch of gilded plaster, while inserted at the bottom, mimicking a predella and separated by a notched frame, is a mixtilinear panel depicting a half-length saint. It is an apostle, as indicated by the old-fashioned garments - a tunic and pallium - and the book, an attribute of evangelists, exegetes and the saints who spread the word of God. Given the facial features and garment colours, it could be James the Great.
Alongside the panel featuring Saint John the Baptist (inv. 1890 no. 6137), this panel was part of a now dismantled altarpiece of which other fragments are preserved in the Pinacoteca Nazionale Museum in Siena depicting the Madonna and Child Enthroned (inv. no. 76), St. Gregory the Great (inv. no. 59) and St. John the Evangelist, (inv. no. 75). It must have been a polyptych with at least five sections and a sort of predella at the bottom composed of the doctrine of half-length saints, finished with several cymatium at the top, which have been lost.
The polyptych likely stood above one of the altars in the Church of Santissima Annunziata in the Santa Maria della Scala hospital in Siena, a prestigious and powerful charitable organisation which the Sienese painter Bartolomeo Bulgarini entered as an oblate with his wife in 1366 where he spent his remaining years. Among the few Sienese masters to survive the 1348 plague, Bulgarini became a custodian of the artistic traditions of the first half of the century. His art always maintains an archaising touch, drawing, even in his mature works, on models devised in the entourage of Duccio di Boninsegna and by Pietro Lorenzetti. The painter developed a progressive interest in ornamentation, which he accomplished by making use of refined artistic techniques he perfected in Simone Martini's workshop.