Friday, August 8, 2008

Cathedral of Siena's Piccolomini Library

Heading picture: The Fonte Gaia, Fountain of Joy, on Siena's Piazza del Campo.

Some of the most colorful frescoes we saw in Italy were in the Cathedral of Siena in the Piccolomini library. The bus trip to Siena and San Gimignano had many ups and downs. The biggest damper was the rain. Secondly, the whole day tour was too quick. Too many distractions. You need time to really appreciate San Gimignano and Siena. It was the cities where you could easily step of the tourist route, stroll down a narrow alley and step back into time, back to the Middle Ages. Standing in the middle of Piazza del Campo consuming every drop of the surrounding architecture, recalling the history, one can almost hear the noise of people and horses on a Palio Saturday.

Nevertheless, there were highligths too. In San Gimignano I took 20 minutes to step off the well beaten path and explored some quiet alleys and the towers. Another highlight was the Piccolomini library. The vivid colors, coming from a darkish cathedral into the brighter library makes it so much more striking.

The library was commissioned in 1492 by cardinal Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini (then archbishop of Siena and later pope Pius III) for the humanists texts and manuscript collection of his uncle, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who was Pope Pius II. The frescoes were executed between 1502 and 1507 by the Perugian painter Pinturicchio and his assistants.

Pius III never actually saw the end product and the collection never made it to the library, because he died in October 1503, only 26 days after he was elected pope. He died of an ulcer in his leg although some believe he was poisoned by the governor of Siena. It was turbulent times in Rome and in Italy at that point in history, during the last days of the papacy of Alexander VI, who was one of the most murderous popes ever and from a family steeped in vice and crime.

The early beliefs of humanism were that, although God created the universe, it was humans that developed and industrialized it.

In the middle of the library is a copy of the famous statue Three Graces.

The frescoes depict ten important events in the life career of pope Pius II. Interestingly, Pinturicchio painted himself in several of the frescoes. I guess he reasoned that the person who commissioned the frescoes was deceased and couldn’t complain, so what the heck, why not put myself in it too.

Scene 3: Piccolomini being crowned as court poet by emperor Frederick III

Scene 5 and 6:

Scene 5: Piccolomini, then bishop of Siena, presents emperor Frederick III with his bride-to-be Eleanora of Portugal at the Porta Camollia in Siena.
Scene 6: Piccolomini receives the cardinal's hat in 1456.

Scene 8: Piccolomini, as Pius II, convokes a Diet of Princes at Mantua to proclaim a new crusade in 1459.

The library's ceiling.

I don't know the aritst or paiting's name, but liked the overall picture and colors, especially the glow they came from the colors. Siena Cathedral.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ongelooflik indrukwekkend!