The praying saint, oblivious to the rock that just hit him, has blood flowing from his head. Behind, two men lift heavy stones to execute him. The attackers are vividly drawn in yellow and blue tunics, their gestures and faces displaying hate and anger, while the martyr's expression remains placid and focused on his intense prayer. In accordance with the calm demeanour of the saint, the scenery is wide and serene, showing a beautiful meandering river with a mill in the background.
In this finely coloured depiction of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the artist confirms his talents in his painting of a glorious background landscape in a very limited space. The style of the illumination can be attributed to Florence, where the illuminator Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (1433-1484), pupil of Fra Angelico, ran a workshop that was favoured by early Renaissance patrons. The orientalising details, muscular tormentors, structure of the boulders and the rock-plateau, and foremost, the fabulous, intricate landscape with Tuscan medieval houses and a watermill, together reveal the hand of someone working in the context of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico. He was a prolific artist known for his creative and innovative work, which demonstrates a remarkable sense for naturalism. His miniatures feature detailed landscapes with winding rivers and sinewy figures. He shared some technical interests with his Florentine contemporary Antonio Pollaiuolo. In particular, both of them fostered the portrayal of human figures in motion, which they learned by observing practical anatomical dissections. Del Chierico was known to collaborate on his numerous projects with various illuminators. The present leaf was illuminated in this Florentine context and can possibly be attributed to the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon (who may be the young Attavante degli Attavanti).
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