Siena's painting gallery houses the most representative collection of the Sienese school of art. It wouldn't be fair to label it a museum of second-rate paintings by first-rate artists, but the supreme masterpieces of Siena do lie elsewhere. It's laid out more or less chronologically starting on the second floor, though the museum is constantly rearranging (especially the last bits), and there are rumors that all the collections will eventually be moved to the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala.
Room 1 contains the first definite work of the Sienese school, a 1215 altar frontal by the "Maestro di Teresa," and one of the earliest known paintings on canvas, Guido da Siena's Scenes from the Life of Christ (late 1200s). Rooms 3 and 4 have works by the first great Sienese master, Duccio, including an early masterpiece showing Cimabue's influence, the tiny 1285 Madonna dei Francescani (in poor condition, it's kept under glass). Rooms 5 to 8 pay homage to the three great early-14th-century painters, Simone Martini and the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Of Martini, be sure to look at the Madonna and Child (1321) from the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista and the Altar of Beato Agostino Novello. Martini's brother-in-law Lippo Memmi weighs in with a fresco fragment of the Madonna and Child with Saints, and there's a gold-heavy Ascension by the "Maestro di Ovile." The best Lorenzetti works are in the small side rooms off room 7, including a Madonna Enthroned and a Madonna of the Carmelites by Pietro; also look for Ambrogio's small cityscapes of castles and cities, and his last dated work, a 1344 Annunciation.
In the atrium corridor are some 14th-century Sienese and Florentine works, then rooms 13 to 19 feature 15th-century Sienese paintings by the likes of Giovanni di Paolo, including a 1440 Crucifixion and two of the Presentation at the Temple. Matteo di Giovanni is also represented here before passing to the work of Sano di Pietro, Vecchietta, and Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The third floor houses a small, formerly private collection of 16th- and 17th-century paintings, including a Durer St. Jerome.
The regular collections continue on the first floor, which is often rearranged. Among the paintings are two by the "Maestro di Volterra," a Pinturicchio Holy Family, and Girolamo Genga's 1509 frescoes Ransom of Prisoners and the Flight of Aeneas from Troy. The museum sometimes displays in the next rooms its many works by Mannerist master Domenico Beccafumi, including a Trinity with Saints, a Stigmata of St. Catherine, a Birth of the Virgin, and a particularly fine Christ Descending into Limbo. Also look for Beccafumi's huge cartoons, from which many of the panels in the Duomo floor were made. Beccafumi's 16th-century rival, who painted more in the classicist branch of the High Renaissance rather than in the Mannerist style, was Sodoma, also well represented here. If it's on display, you can compare the two painters by looking at Sodoma's take on Christ in Limbo; it's a brighter work with a better use of color but lacks Beccafumi's weird mastery of light and experimentation with form. The detached fresco of Sodoma's Christ at the Column is remarkably realistic and has a fascinating use of rich colors, as does his large and detailed Deposition, where parts of the scene are reflected in the soldier's armor and helm.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010