Artist unknown (Italian, 16th century),
, early 16th century
polychromed terra cotta, 23 ½ x 18 x 15 in.; 59.7 x 45.72 x 38.1 cm
Museum purchase, 1963.366.B
Petronius, the patron saint of Bologna, is recognizable not only by his bishop’s cope and miter, but also by the model of the city resting on his knee. The sculpture base bears the Latin inscription “Pray for us sinners,” and the saint’s hand is raised accordingly in blessing. The inscription, gesture, and downward gaze all suggest that the figure was part of an altarpiece, or else sat in an elevated niche overlooking the congregation.
In a tradition dating back to antiquity, colors were added to sculptures to enhance their realism, as well as to enrich a simple medium, such as fired clay.