Polyptych of Noci, or the Polyptych of Nine Saints

The raised polyptych altar in the presbytery of Chiesa Matrice, Noci, is attributed to Nuzzo Barba. It was commissioned by Giulio Antonio Acquaviva and his consort Caterina del Balzo Orsini in the late 15th-century. Made of local materials, the framework is wood and stone and the niches feature stone statues of saints. At the centre is the Madonna (adorned with a later metal crown) adoring Baby Jesus, with her hands raised in prayer position over her child on her lap. On the left are St. Anthony of Padua, St. Roche, St. Dominic (a later papier mâché replacement of the lost stone original) and St. Peter. On the right are St. Sebastian, St. James (according to scholars), St. Paul, and St. Vitus. Scholars, including the expert on Pugliese sculpture Prof. Clara Gelao, identify the figure on the right on the upper level as St. James, but do not comment on the fact that this figure is nude, except for a draped cloth, and has the stigmata, which makes this look like an image of Christ. (James is generally shown in the dress of a pilgrim, with a staff and hat, as well as a seashell badge.) A sculpture of Christ would be appropriate for an altarpiece commissioned by a confraternity dedicated to the eucharist, but it would be odd to have such a sculpture put in a more marginal position, so the figure is puzzling. Below the sculpture of the Madonna, two children hold back curtains of a baldachin to reveal the eucharistic chalice and wafer (an echo of the raising of the sacrament that occurs when mass is celebrated on the altar below). Below that is a relief of the brothers of the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament, their identities piously obscured by hoods, who kneel, carrying a crucifix and a banner with another image of the eucharist. Some also have prayer beads, and so this image echoes the kinds of devotions (both individual prayers and group rituals) that were performed before this altar. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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