Ett Birgitta-altare i Provence

  • Jan Svanberg Prof. emeritus University of Oslo, Norway & University of Stockholm, Sweden


The art collection of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – between Nice and Monte Carlo – includes a large altarpiece with “S. Brigida” in the central panel, sitting with a book in her lap and holding a quill in her right hand, writing down a revelation. She is depicted as a young woman, with blond, uncovered hair – in fact very unlike Saint Birgitta of Sweden (1303–1373) who was a widow when she received her many revelations and is therefore usually depicted with a wimple over her hair whilst recording them. It is Saint Bridget of Ireland (c. 452–523) who is usually shown as a young woman with long hair. But she never had any revelations, and it is argued here that the “S. Brigida” in the triptych is either an intentional synthesis of the two Bridgets, or a contamination. Two small scenes on the predella, with miracles from the legend of Saint Bridget of Ireland, may provide a solution. To the right we see how green grass begins to grow on the altar when Bridget uncovers it, and to the left is shown how – thanks to Bridget’s intercession – the corn can be harvested in spite of a thunderstorm. Behind the kneeling Bridget in the latter scene there is a third person, her hair covered by a hat or wimple, which is interpreted here as Birgitta of Sweden.    The seated S. Brigida in the middle panel is flanked by the standing figures of Saint Anthony and Saint Roch; on the predella below are two small scenes from their respective legends.
How to Cite
SVANBERG, Jan. Ett Birgitta-altare i Provence. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 2, p. 5-18, june 2014. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 15 june 2024.


Iconography of Saint Bridget, Bridget of Ireland (of Kildare), Birgitta of Sweden, Saint Anthony, Saint Roch, Renaissance altarpiece, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild