Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Parish church masterpieces found

Richard Stansfield's picture shows the two panels, which depict Saint Bernardino, left, and an unidentified saint
It is not clear how the paintings ended up at the Goldthorpe church

Two valuable paintings which hung unrecognised in a small South Yorkshire church have been identified as 15th Century works of art.

The 300,000 panels, by Renaissance artist Sano di Pietro, were on display at the Church of St John and St Mary Magdalene in Goldthorpe near Sheffield.

When their importance was suspected, experts identified them as some of di Pietro's largest works outside Italy.

The paintings are on show at York Art Gallery until the end of March.

Laura Turner, curator of the art gallery, said: "These panels are a truly incredible find and we are extremely proud to be able to put them on public show for the first time since they have been accredited to Sano di Pietro.

"The pieces are stunning to look at but there is also a real sense of mystery about them as so much remains unknown about their past."

Sano di Pietro
Sano di Pietro was an early Renaissance artist born in Siena
Little is known about his life although he was a pupil of Sassetta, one of the most important 15th century painters
It is known di Pietro finished some of Sassetta's works upon his death

The two 5ft (1.5m) gold panels, which depict Saint Bernardino and an unknown saint, are believed to have originally been part of a large altar piece in a Tuscan church

The paintings had been on show in the Lady Chapel of the Goldthorpe church where they were difficult to see and remained unstudied for decades.

Nothing has been published on the paintings and it is not yet clear how they ended up in the church.

One suggestion is that they came from Lord Halifax, who funded the building of the church in 1916, although there are no records to confirm this.

After being shown at the gallery, the paintings will go on display at York Minster, which has agreed a five-year loan with the parish of Goldthorpe.

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