The Palazzo Pubblico is one of the most famous Sienese monuments. Looking at its façade from Piazza del Campo, it's possible to see, immediately, its different periods of construction: on the lower level of the three-mullioned (triple-arched) windows, stone was used and then later brick.
The Palazzo Pubblico
These windows - the characteristic Sienese trifore, have three consecutive gothic arches supported by slender columns. The Sienese crest is inserted between the arches and the mainlancet window, in the centre of the dial.
Battista di Niccolò and Turino di Sano, St. Bernard's monogram
The central body of the building is one floor higher than the side-wings, while at the top, the whole is crowned with a row of guelphic merlons - that is, battlements without the pointed swallowtail. In the centre of the façade there is a large white plate with the monogram of Christ - also called St. Bernard's monogram - done in 1425 by Battista di Niccolò and Turino di Sano. Below this, there is centrally the emblema mediceo, with on the one side the Balzana - the black and white crest of the municipality of Siena - and on the other a Leone rampante.
The Medici emblem
Giovanni di Agostino and Agostino di Giovanni, Portal
The small holes which pierce the façade are known as buche pontaie, where medieval builders put wooden poles used to hold the scaffolding.
The Torre del Mangia is connected with another Sienese monument at its base - the cappella di Piazza. It was built in 1352 as the result of a vow of the Comune and was put up next to the Tower and jutting into the Piazza del Campo. Its construction was not easy. Its four corner pillars known as the ''more'' were modified many times and were finally finished in 1376 under the direction of Giovanni di Cecco. The roof that covers them was replaced almost a hundred years later, during the High Renaissance, by Antonio Federighi in 1461.
Mariano Angelo de Romanelli e Bartolomeo di Tommé, The Apostles
The vault's arches and lancet windows frame the chapel even today. The Comune commissioned twelve niches for the external pillars, but only six were done. Mariano Angelo de Romanelli and Bartolomeo di Tommé, known as Pizzino, completed mediocre statues of the apostles inserted between 1378 and 1382. Amongst these, there is one by Lando di Stefano: S.Bartolomeo (1382).
Inside is an architrave in the classical style and a fourteenth century wrought-iron railing runs along the walls and may be by Pietro di Betto. This railing could be from the first Cappella dei Nove on the ground floor of the Palazzo. The delicate marble panels of the balustrade of the chapel by Giacomo Cozzarelli (1470) represent Aritmetica and Geometria – Arithmetic and Geometry and were replaced by copies done by Enea Becheroni in 1848.
Mariano Angelo de Romanelli e Bartolomeo di Tommé, Apostles
The originals are on the main staircase of the Palazzo Pubblico. Above the altar, only traces remain of the gorgeous fresco by Sodoma - Madonna e Figlio con angeli e L'Eterno – Madonna and Jesus with Angels and The Eternal – (1537 and 1539). To the side is a tabernacle with a delicate Annunciazione – The Annunciation and Gesù benedicente – Jesus Benedictory This is a masterpiece by an unknown Sienese lapicida - stonemason – of the fourteenth century.
The entrance to the Palazzo Pubblico is through the door overlooking the Piazza del Campo next to the Capella – the Chapel - across the beautiful Cortile del Podestà. This courtyard was built in 1325, and is an elegant row of brick columns on which has rests a floor of large trifore with lancet windows.
The Torre del Mangia
Here, together with a series of crests of the old governors, are the remains of the stone statue of Mangia. This statue, carved in travertine, is of Giovanni di Balduccio, called 'Mangiaguadagni' - the spendthrift - who sounded the hours at the bell tower. The latest tower built in 1759 was named after him and contained the bell ringing mechanism. This mechanism was later transferred to the Cortile del Podestà in 1780. Also worth noting is the statue by Giovanni Turino of the Lupa che allatta i gemelli – the She-Wolf Suckling the Twins - the symbol of Siena, now on a sloping ramp but which was once on a column in Piazza Posterla.
Giovanni Turino, Sienese She-Wolf
From the cortile it is possible to enter the Torre del Mangia and the Museo Civico. The ticket office and staircase entrance of the Museo are modern designs by Mario Terrosi. On the ground floor are ranged chestsonce used by the Republic of Siena and the famous bell – campana - which announced the victory of the Montaperti in 1260 to the Sienese. In a display case are precious Sienese handcrafted ceramics.
A vast room rests within four vaults – or campate – and wasgiven its name because of two fourteenth century marble she-wolves, once used as rain-catchers on the façade of the building. In 1920, the room was adorned with crests painted by Umberto Giunti, each connected to the history and the business of the city - S. Maurizio, S.Virgilio, Spada forte, etc.
Sano di Pietro, Saint Peter Alessandrino between the Blessed Andrea Gallerani and Ambrogio Sansedoni
On the left wall, next to the she-wolves, is Mosè, a small statue by Antonio Federighi. Although once richly decorated, there are now few decorations in this room. Amongst these the most significant is without a doubt the S. Pietro Alessandrino tra i beati Andrea Gallerani e Ambrogio Sansedoni, on the right-hand wall of the third vault,a fresco painted by Sano di Pietro in 1446. The Saint is holding on his knees a view of Siena in which you can clearly see the Duomo and the Palazzo Pubblico. Opposite is the important fresco by Sodoma, depicting an Aquila e due putti - an Eagle and two Cherubs - crowning the Resurrezione di Cristo - the Resurrection of Christ - also by Sodoma and now in the current Secretary General's office.
From the ground floor up the modern staircase are four rooms known as the quadreria. These are used today as a museum to house a large and varied collection, adding to the already richly appointed Palazzo Pubblico. This recent use of the quadreria, brings together frescoes removed from their original walls or ceilings, as well as paintings from the Sienese school and other Italian and foreign artists.
In the first room, there are four beautiful and large canvases - Scene di caccia - Hunting Scenes - attributed to Joseph Roos an Austrian painter influenced by the Bamboccianti school. Not to be missed are the large Samaritana al pozzo - Samaritan at the Well -from the school of Mattia Preti and a delicate Madonna col bambino, santi e angeli - Madonna with Infant Jesus, Saints and Angels - by the Veronese painter Felice Brusasorzi. Also worthy of attention are the two Marine or sea-scenes, on copper and attributed to Filippo Napoletano; a Sant'Orsola – Saint Ursula - by an anonymous Sienese artist, and another Madonna col bambino by Felice Brusasorzi.
In the second room are the beautiful sinopie – the preliminary drawings - of the frescoes done by Sodoma (1537-39) for the Chapel in the Piazza del Campo. These are better preserved than the frescoes themselves and provide an opportunity to appreciate the unique talent of this eclectic Piedmontese artist. Here also are the Cataletto - quattro testate di bara - panels painted on both sides by Bartolomeo di David, originally in the Compagnia di Sant'Onofrio. Visitors should also see the Madonna col Bambino e angeli - Madonna with Infant Jesus and Angels - by Andrea Piccinelli known as ''il Brescianino'', another Cataletto painted by Ventura Salimbeni for the lay Compagnia di Santo Stefano a Porta Pispini – Company of Saint Steven at the Pispini Gateway - the Pietà by Vincenzo Rustici and the Martirio di Santi – Martyrdom of the Saints - by Marco Pino.
In the small interconnecting third room are six charming paintings showing the Mesi dell'anno – the months of the year - by Cristofano Rustici, brought from the Palazzo Piccolomini. With these are Patrizi in via di Città – Patricians in via di Città - and two fascinating canvases: the Lupa senese con fanciullo portabandiera – Senese She-Wolf with Standard-Bearing Boy - and La processione in Piazza del Duomo – Procession in the Piazza del Duomo - by Agostino Marcucci. These are not interesting so much for the quality of their artistic work as for their rare iconography, and the evidence they give of the seventeenth century Cathedral close. The exquisite Madonna col Bambino e Santi hanging here is almost certainly from the early period of Rutilio Manetti, possibly the most important Sienese painter of the seventeenth century. In the centre of the room there is a an eighteenth century French map of the world, the Mappamondo.
The fourth and final room houses beautiful works by Rutilio Manetti. These include his San Girolamo - Saint Jerome - L'adorazione dei Magi - the Adoration of the Magi - an intense San Paolo and the Epifania – an Epiphany scene. In the same room we can see the Stendardo – The Standard - painted on both sides by Sebastiano Folli, the Sposalizio della Vergine – The Wedding of the Virgin - by Pietro Sorri, and two works by Domenico Manetti, son of Rutilio: Visitazione – The Visitation - and Gesù insegna a leggere a Santa Caterina – Jesus teaching Saint Catherine to write. There is also a display case of sacred objects and relics.
In a glass cabinet in the corridor next to the entrance is a special collection of ceramics: most medieval objects but also some from the most important eighteenth centurySienese artist Chigi, active in San Quirico d'Orcia.
The last room of the Museum also houses a work of the greatest importance, recently rehung the stunning Croce by Massarello di Gilio – 1301 - probably the oldest work done for the Palazzo Comunale. The stained glass window depicting San Michele Arcangelo – The Archangel Saint Michael - attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the wooden statues from the workshop of Jacopo della Quercia are marvellously illustrative of their period. Among the small paintings from the fourteenth and fifteenth century Sienese school there is a ''scomparto di predella'' – a wood panelled altarpiece - attributed to the school of Francesco di Giorgio and probably the work of Neroccio. This shows Una predica di San Bernardino in Piazza del Campo – San Bernardino giving a sermon in Piazza del Campo - and San Bernardino che libera un' indemoniata – San Bernardino exorcises a possessed woman.
Through an antechamber you enter the Sala del Risorgimento, also known as Vittorio Emanuele's room. This room, a key post-unification contribution to the history of the Palazzo, displays sculpture and Italian painting from the nineteenth century among which are works by Dupré and Gallori. However, it named for tableaux commemorating the life of Vittorio Emanuele II, known as ''the father of the nation''.
Amos Cassioli, The Battle of San Martino
These, despite being limited by an excessive hagiographic grandiloquence, are nevertheless important for their technique and an attention to design and detail.
Cesare Maccari, The Funeral of the King at the Pantheon
Many illustrate attitude to historical events and perhaps should not be read as examples of the history of art. The Battaglia di S. Martino – The Battle of San Martino - and Gli zuavi alla battaglia di Palestro – The Zuaves at the Battle of Palestro (1886) by Amos Cassioli are typical militaristic. I funerali del re al Pantheon (1886) – The Funeral of the King at the Panetheon - is by Cesare Maccari. Piero Aldi's paintings, famous for their iconography are here represented by L'incontro a Novara fra Vittorio Emanuele e il Generale Radetsky – Meeting between Vittorio Emanuele and General Radetsky in Novara and L'incontro a Teano fra Garibaldi e Vittorio Emanuele – Meeting between Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele in Teano - both painted in 1886. On the vault is the Allegoria dell'Italia – Allegory of Italy - by Alessandro Franchi (1887) and on the side walls Le regioni d'Italia – The Italian regions – by various artists including Franchi. In the centre of the room is a colossal sculpture Il dolore – Pain - by Emilio Gallori, and in a display cabinet the uniform worn by Vittorio Emanuele II at the battle of San Martino.
This room was created at the beginning of the fourteenth century and was so named because it was used by the magistratura di Balia, a council gathered to execute government policy. The council met in the Sala from 1455 until the end of the Republic and Gilberto da Correggio, the commander of the Sienese army against Piccinino (1455) was executed here, it is said for treason. Of rare workmanship is the residenza – desk – of inlaid wood by master carpenter Barna di Turino and used by the magistrates as early as 1410.
Spinello Aretino, Pope Alessandro III returns to Rome
The room is richly frescoed. On the vaults, the Sienese Martino Bartolomeo painted the Evangelisti – The Evangelists - between 1407 and 1408, when he completed the six busts of emperors and warriors. Spinello Aretino, helped by his son Parri, at the same time took on the task of painting the remaining walls with Storie di Alessandro III - Episodes from the Life of Alexander III - Pope Rolando Bandinelli. One of Siena's great sons, during the course of his twelfth century papacy Alexander III helped unite northern Italian cities with varying success, in an extended struggle Emperor Frederick I, known as Barbarossa. This pictorial cycle, divided into sixteen, starts with two lunettes on the arch over the exit.
Spinello Aretino, Battle at Punta di San Salvatore
The scenes show a simple but effective vitality - clearly influenced by the Giotto's late period -, showing episodes from the life of this Pope: his coronation, his expulsion from Rome by Barbarossa's troops, his alliance with the Venetians, the foundation of the Piedmont city of Alessandria, named after him. Amongst the events depicted, the Battaglia di Punta San Salvatore – Battle at Punta di San Salvatore - is remarkable for richness of detail, such as the naval battle between the Venetian and German fleets. This painting, showing the Venetian victory, covers the entire lower wall leading to the exit. Equally marvellous is the depiction of Ritorno a Roma di Alessandro III – Pope Alessandro III returns to Rome - above the entrance. In this last fresco, the Emperor Barbarossa is shown, defeated yet forgiven, accompanying the Pope into the Eternal city.
Both before and after Spinello only Sienese artists painted in this room and its decoration – in terms of artist, concept and iconography – is unique in the Palazzo.
A vestibule leads the visitor from the anticappella to the anticamera del Concistoro with a beautiful view of the Piazza del Campo. Frescoes which once decorated other rooms in the palazzo, have been moved here, to the left-hand wall. TheSan Paolo by Martino di Bartolomeo clearly shows the influence of Taddeo di Bartolo.
Martino di Bartolomeo, Saint Paul
On the entrance wall to the Sala di Balia is an exquisite wooden Sienese Crocifisso – Crucifix - and two statues attributed to Federighi one of San Antonio abate – Saint Anthony Abbot - and the other of San. Ambrogio. These wooden carvings are examples of the richness of Sienese carpentry. On the same wall are an excellent, if fragmented, Santi Caterina d'Alessandria and Giovanni Evangelista e Agostino – The Saints Catherine of Alessandria, John the Evangelist and Agostino which was originally in another room and attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti. On the entrance wall, there is a small ancona – retable – by Guidoccio Cozzarelli showing La Madonna con Bambino e due angeli.
Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Madonna with Infant Jesus and two angels
Lower down, another coloured wooden statue, possibly by Jacopo della Quercia and, if not, clearly inspired by him. There is also a fresco of the once much venerated S. Onofrio. Higher, are the poorly-preserved remains of the Madonna in trono – Madonna in Majesty - once in the cortile del Podestà.
An extremely elegant marble door, attributed to Rossellino, opens on Sala del Concistoro which, from the construction of the Palazzo until 1786, is where the government of the Republic met. The room is dominated by a pictorial cycle. This includes the Virtù pubbliche - civic virtues - and of the exempla morali - moral examples - with Greek and Roman themes, painted by Domenico Beccafumi between 1529 and 1535. The cycle concludes with the three virtues of government: L'amor di patria - love of country - La giustizia – Justice - and La mutua benevolenza o concordia - Concord.
Bernardo Rossellino, Marble door
The thematic references and the subject are explicitly connected to the previous episodes of Buon Governo in Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Allegories of Good and Bad Governance and to the pictorial cycle of Uomini illustri - Illustrious Men - by Taddeo di Bartolo, foundelsewhere in the Palazzo. All these works, by different artists, are part of a grand moral and political iconography. Although painted over a large span - almost two centuries – they are connected by a shared polity.
Domenico Beccafumi, Marco Manlio thrown from the Tarpean Rock
The historical source of these episodes is Valerio Massimo. However, the neo-platonic inspiration and the constant references to the corpus ermetico are also visible. Amongst the minor figures decoratingthe vault is an example of amore di patria, the tale of Codro. This king of Athens, having been warned by an oracle that the only way he could be victorious would be at the cost of his life, didn't hesitate to be immolated. As an example of giustizia, there is the episode of Seleuco di Locri. He had to punish his son, found guilty of rape, by blinding - . the father had only one of his son's eyes put out adding one of his own. Finally, as a sublime example of concordia, we have the public reconciliation between Emilio Lepido and Fulvio Flacco. They were bitter enemies until their joint election as censors, when state obligations had to take precedence over their private feuding. This vault, a masterpiece by Beccafumi, is a Renaissance example already almost mannerist but still influenced by classic humanism. As a result, the vault offers virtuoso perspectives. These include La decapitazione di Spurio Cassio, aspirante alla tirannide and Marco Manlio gettato dalla Rupe Tarpea per la stessa causa – The beheading of the plotting tyrant Spurio Cassio and Marco Manlio thrown from the Rupe Tarpea – the Tarpean Rock – for the same reason. In the four corners are paired Greek and Roman heroes: Trasibulo e Genuzio, Stasippo di Tegea e Fabio Massimo, Damone e Lucio Bruto, Carunda e Elio. Above the entrance is a stunning canvas by Luca Giordano (c.1680) showing Il Giudizio di Salomon – The Judgement of Solomon.
This space was used as the antechamber of the Concistoro and is appropriately dominated by a splendid pictorial cycle as a reminder of Roman morality. Siena, after all considered herself an heir of the Eternal City. In 1415 Taddeo di Bartolo was given the task of painting a representation of Justice, Magnanimity, Strength, Prudence and Religion, the key political virtues. The commission requested these be shown as a gallery of historical figures significant in the foundation of Rome - Cato, Muzio Scevola, Scipione and others.
Taddeo di Bartolo, Saint Christopher
On the intradosso – underside - of the great arch leading to the Sala del Mappamondo, Taddeo painted a map of Ancient Rome with the figures of Jupiter, Apollo, Pallas as well Aristotle, Caesar and Pompey.
In a cabinet sacred objects used in religious ceremonies are displayed. The most important is the Rosa d'oro – the Golden Rose - by Simone da Firenze A masterpiece of the Renaissance goldsmith's craft, it was given to the city by Pope Pius II in 1458.
In contrast with the scenes on Greek and Roman themes, on a plinth opposite the entrance is a monumental San Cristoforo (1408), also by Taddeo. The saint acts as a link between the anticappella and the famous neighbouring chapel.
This is one of the most evocative places in the Palazzo. Accessed through a beautiful inlaid wood door dated 1426, it was a result of the reorganisation of rooms at the beginning of the fifteenth century and replaced a previous, lower chapel.
Taddeo di Bartolo, John the Evangelist
A wrought iron screen separating off the chapel dates to the period of consecration. It is elegant, shaped by Giacomo di Vita in the 1440s, possibly having taken over from Jacopo della Quercia. Entering from the right, there is a holy water stoup with bronze statuettes by Giovanni Turino and, above and in the centre of the chapel, a beautiful and rare lampadario – lamp – recently attributed to Domenico di Niccolò. The small yet valuable organ placed to the north of the altar is by Giovanni d'Antonio Piffaro and dates to about 1520.
Domenico di Niccolò, Choir stalls - detail
Also attributed to Domenico di Niccolò is the magnificent coro ligneo – the choir - which gives the chapel a combined sense of medieval spirituality and late gothic grandeur. Each of these 22 stalls, finely sculpted and inlaid between 1415 and 1428, records the articoli del Credo – the articles of the Apostles' Creed. Di Niccolò was called ''dei cori'' – ''di Niccolò of the choir stalls'' – because of the beauty of this work and the fame it generated.
Taddeo di Bartolo's decoration gives great splendour to the chapel. Commissioned at the beginning of the fifteenth century, he painted the walls with five episodes from the Life of the Virgin. L'Annunciazione - the Annunciation - is above the altar. The left-hand wall is dominated by four scenes:
Il congedo dagli Apostoli - The farewell visit by the Apostles
La morte della Vergine - The death of the Virgin
I funerali della Vergine - The funeral of the Virgin, and
L'Assunzione - The Assumption.
Taddeo brings these episodes to life - the funeral cortege and the urban background are especially arresting - emphasizing the sacredness of the chapel space despite the lack of originality of subject and debt to Giotto. He also painted thirty-two angel musicians on the ceiling, each playing a different instrument. These angels are executed with such precision that we are now able to reconstruct precisely a medieval orchestra.
The altar by Marrina is particularly fine, as is the painting by Sodoma, La Sacra famiglia con San Leonardo - The Sacred family with S. Leonard – (c1530). Both originally graced the Duomo but were transferred together to the Palazzo at the end of the seventeenth century.
From the Chapel a visitor enters the Sala del Mappamondo, the largest room in the Palazzo Pubblico. This was long used for meetings of the Consiglio Generale della Repubblica – the ruling council of the republic. Here Simone Martini's Maestà - Madonna in Majesty - was the first work in the decorative programme of the Palazzo.
Simone Martini, Maestà – Madonna in Majesty - detail
This splendid fresco is evidence of the newly fashionable courtly love in Siena, celebrated in the rhymes of Petrarch, a great friend of Martini. It is no coincidence that the Virgin was chosen as the subject of this first decorative work: the Sienese wanted to show their special devotion for the Heavenly Mother, a devotion renewed annually in the famous Palio, dedicated to her.
Martini's fresco was begun around 1312, four years after Duccio di Buoninsegna finished his Maestà for the largest altar of the Duomo, now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. A comparison between these two artists was inevitable and Martini clearly knew this all the time he was working on his own Maestà. Martini was young, at the start of his career, yet this work quickly made him known not just across Italy, but throughout Europe. He chose a decisive and innovative style, risking the loss of that extraordinary sacred solemnity which characterises the Duccio's Maestà. The figures are spread lightly over the painted space; the splendid baldacchino – canopy - distinctly gothic like the cuspidi – spires – of the Virgin's throne, creates a relationship between the lower order and that of the image above. Poles held by the saints mark the sequence of the figures in the space around the throne: golden, imposing, free of clutter. Here no one, not even an angel, accompanies the Virgin and Infant Jesus. This gives a quiet piety to the central group in contrast to Duccio's work. Nor did Martini feel compelled to recreate Duccio's golden background, replacing it with a perfect geometrical space. Remember this work is at the exit of the most important room for the city's secular life. What was required was an almost magical space, splitting the room with its contrast of sacred and profane. The blue background breaks the interior architecture, presenting the image as an unreachable place of peace and purity. Running the risk of producing an excessively cold work, Simone Martini resolved the problem through the well-known technique of using eye lines: the angels on the left and the right, John the Baptist and Saint Gregory each invite us to experience what they already see. It is an intimate invitation of sacred fellowship. On the first level two angels kneel, offering the Madonna baskets of flowers, whilst the Sienese saints are presented, praying for the protection of their city. An inscription runs under the fresco, a reassurance from the Virgin to her audience, that she will watch over Siena, on one condition:
''Diletti mei ponete nelle menti/che li devoti vostri preghi onesti/come vorrete voi faro co(n)tenti/ma se i potenti ai debili fien molesti/gravando loro e con vergogne o danni/le vostre oration non son per questi/ne per qualunque la mia terra inganni''.
The condition warns that the prayers of the saints will not help those who spread discord in the city. It refers to the first stipulation of Buon Governo - Good Governance - which is at the heart of the political contract of the city administrators.
Facing the Maestà, Simone Martini painted another masterpiece in 1328: Guidoriccio da Fogliano all'assedio di Montemassi - Guidoriccio da Fogliano at the Siege of Montemassi, or the Equestrian Portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano.
Simone Martini, Guidoriccio da Fogliano at the Siege of Montemassi, or the Equestrian Portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano
This was part of a group of similar paintings to show off fourteenth century Sienese expansionist policies. Military glory juxtaposed heavenly glory, where the mounted knight is shown cloaked in his tabard, embroidered with all the insignia of the da Fogliano family, his horse liveried in the same style. The figures are outlined, avoiding contact with the surrounding landscape - the Montemassi castle to the left, the wall of the besieged hill town above and below, the Battifolle castle with its siege towers and the Sienese military camp low on the left, with tents and agricultural fields. The painting's unusual subject, coinciding with the arrival of chronicle painting, is arranged to support contemporary political reality. This new style of painting portrayed society as worthy of artistic attention, not merely as an intermediary between the human and the divine.
Martini's authorship had been taken for granted for centuries but, from the 1980s, his fresco was at the centre of an argument regarding its authenticity. Long debates between important critics such as Briganti and Zeri called the attribution of the Guidoriccio into doubt. Whatever one believes, it can be confirmed that the painting – or at least its original parts - is of the highest stylistic element and technical quality. The skills needed are clear signs of Martini's hand.
Below the Guidoriccio, there is another fresco with a similar theme. This was painted around twenty years earlier by an exceptional hand, showing Due personaggi e un castello – Two Characters and a Castle.
Duccio di Buoninsegna, Two characters and a castle
The fact that the work was soon covered with a layer of plaster makes it impossible to attribute it to any particular tradition in painting. A heated debate has enveloped this fresco too. Some refer to it as the last of Duccio's works. His work as a fresco artist was little known until recently, but is now identified in numerous examples from Siena and its surrounding. Another hypothesis, again by Zeri but in contrast to what he has said about the Guidoriccio, is that the painting is by Simone Martini. Less likely are the proposals that the work is by Ambrogio Lorenzetti or Memmo di Filippuccio. The protagonist could be the podestà or a citizen of the Republic of Siena in the act of capturing a castle. The iconography once again refers to military glory and Siena's expansionist aims.
This fresco was probably painted over, as were many others showing the lands and castles conquered by Siena, to make way for the Mappamondo by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. This was an elaborate rotating disc, a large wooden wheel covered in cartapecora – parchment. Unfortunately lost three centuries ago – though a vague description exists – it contained an image of the city of Siena in its centre, surrounded by its associated lands and, in the background, all other lands known at the time. Nothing remains except the imprints of its attachment to the wall, the hole for the central pin, and of course the fact that it gave the room its name.
Below the Guidoriccio, in 1529, Sodoma painted two of the city's patron saints: San Vittore and Sant'Ansano, both perfectly preserved.
Giovanni Antonio Bazzi known as Sodoma, Saint Victor
Giovanni Antonio Bazzi known as Sodoma, Saint Ansano
On the walls facing of the windows are the Battaglia della Val di Chiana - Battle of Val di Chiana - a work by Lippo Vanni (1363) and the Battaglia del Poggio Imperiale contro i fiorentini - Battle against the Florentines at Poggio Imperiale - by Giovanni di Cristofano Ghini and Francesco d'Andrea (1480). Below these two paintings is a gallery of Siena's most venerated saints: San Bernardino by Sano di Pietro,
Sano di Pietro, Saint Bernard
painted the year he was canonised (1450); Santa Caterina by Vecchietta (1460) and the Beato Bernardo Tolomei, founder of the Olivetani, by Sodoma (c.1530). In the middle arch is beautiful Strage degli Innocenti - Massacre of the Innocents - signed and dated 1482 by Matteo di Giovanni. He was so fond of this subject he painted it another three times on the floor of the Duomo, in San Domenico and the version at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
Crescenzio Gambarelli, The Blessed Sansedoni
This is probably his most accomplished. It is terrible and magnificent showing the pain of the mothers as the bodies of their children are piled up.
Next to the Sala del Mappamondo is the Sala della Pace or dei Nove, the most noteworthy of the rooms in the Palazzo Pubblico. It is full of philosophical, political and aesthetic implications which can only be partially appreciated on a single visit.
The room has had many names: delle balestre – the crossbow room, as it was also used as an armoury - del Buon Governo as it contains that allegory, and della Pace because of one of the figures shown here. The room, however, embodies the political spirit of the Nove - the Rule of the Nine - the governing body who ruled Siena better and longer than any other, between 1287 an 1355.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Peace - detail from the Allegory of Good Governance
The Nove ensured economic and artistic development with little to match it anywhere else in Europe, and they commissioned Ambrogio Lorenzetti, in 1337, to decorate this room. Lorenzetti had, after Martini's departure for the papal court at Avignon, become the chief exponent of the Sienese School. In this room the Nove received guests and they wanted to make immediately clear to visitors the political and administrative ideals that inspired them.
L'Allegoria del buon governo is on the wall opposite the window and therefore in the best position to be viewed. It is the first secular pictorial cycle in the history of art developed not only through various descriptive levels but also in the meticulous captions. It was intended that there should not be any doubt about the message. That message is a clear division of power between government and justice. Government is shown as an old sage dressed in traditional Sienese black and white, whilst Justice carries her scales. These twin elements of state administration are placed on a level and at the sage's feet the Sienese she-wolf feeds the twins. Government is surrounded by the civic virtues: Peace, Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice and Magnanimity. Above these, together with their symbols, hover the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.
The female figure of Justice covering the entire left side of the fresco is beautiful. The trays of her scales are supported by Wisdom's hands and contain two angels, the first is beheading a kneeling figure whilst crowning another – this is Giustizia distributiva, the distributive Justice of reward and punishment - the second is giving a figure a sword and a lance whilst pouring money into a jewellery box held by another figure - Giustizia commutativa, commutative Justice. From these trays a double rope drops, held by the figure of Concord. She hands the rope on to the twenty-four citizens who then hand it back to the government. This is an allegory of the separation of powers, according to Aristotelian and Thomist philosophies, as well as of the important participation of citizens in the management of the res publica. It is a complex iconography, inaccessible to many visitors. The insertion of captions and the sheer beauty of the figures gave - and indeed give - even to the untrained eye, a sense of morality very few rarely found in Italian art.
On the other side of these figures, is a formation of troops with prisoners in chains - another key element in the maintenance of political balance.
On the next wall, above the entrance, is Gli effetti del buon governo in cittá e in campagna – The Effects of Good Governance in the City and the Countryside. This is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italian medieval art and frequently reproduced in modern media.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Effects of Good Governance in the city and in the countryside - detail
The city and the landscape are not abstract and are easily identifiable as Siena and its territory, shown with all their peculiar characteristics. Clearly visible are the dome and bell tower of the Duomo high on the left. Medieval Siena was a hive of activitity - trading, manufacturing and studying – clearly visible. Builders are busily at work in this growing city. A Girotondo - ring-a-ring-o'roses - of young maidens in the middle of the square is splendidly lively. Apart from the beauty of the whole work, certain details - the headdresses and the tambourine played by one of the women – are evocative and real. The traffic passing along the road – Francigena - which cuts through the city and its surrounding countryside is shown as an example of human progress. Sienese life is dominated by Securitas whose sweetness and grace is unaffected by the sinister presence of a hanged man. She represents what, for most, is the safety with which they can live and work, yet also communicates the spiritual delight of the Sienese community.
Opposite this is, in response, are the lessons of L'allegoria e gli effetti del cattivo governo – The Effects of Bad Governance. This negative example is painted in such a way as to make the precepts of the Nove shine out.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Allegory of Bad Governance - detail
Unfortunately, this section of the cycle has been partially defaced, due to negligence rather than just the ravages of time. Nevertheless, it is clear that the artist shows Tyranny as ignoring the common good. Here is government focussed only on its narrow interests. The Tyrant keeps Vices as advisors and also renders Justice ineffective, tying her undressed at his feet. Little of Justice's outline is visible, and her poor condition is similar for the seated Vices - Cruelty, Betrayal, Fraud, Fury, Discord, War. The figure of the tyrant, ironically well preserved, reflects that of the demon of Universal Judgement whose shadow covers Tuscany, deepened by the three massimi flagelli – most terrible curses – Avarice, Pride and Vainglory flying overhead.
The city and the country are shown devastated, reduced to a scene of oppression and violence, death and destruction. This tragic landscape, deprived of light, harbours man whose sole existence is an act of violence.
A recent long and demanding restoration, has repaired this masterpiece of Italian art. Care was taken not to alter the damaged sections, making the details of the work stand out once more.
Between the Sala del Risorgimento and the Sala di Balia a steep staircase leads to the Loggia del palazzo. At the top of the stairs, still visible is a beautiful fifteenth century fresco of the Madonna con Bambino - Madonna with Infant Jesus - attributed to Neroccio di Bartolomeo.
La loggia dei Nove – The loggia of the Rule of Nine
The Loggia faces the Piazza del Mercato, opposite the Piazza del Campo, with a stunning panorama of the south of the city. The Loggia dates back to 1348 and was a recreation room for the Nove, who were forbidden to leave the palazzo except on festivals. Original massive fragments of the fonte Gaia by Jacopo della Quercia are now here and the door leads you out into the Sala del Capitano del Popolo.
The Palazzo Pubblico
Here the consiglio comunale – the town council - meets. On its walls are two late nineteenth century canvases by Amos Cassioli, as well the Giuramento di Pontida –Pontida's Vow, an eccentric subject for Siena - and Provenzano Salvani nel Campo di Siena. What really make the room particularly important are sixteen lunettes decorating the ceiling. Painted between 1592 and 1600 by major Sienese painters, they depict key events in the history of Siena:
Papa Urbano V approva la regola dei Gesuiti del Beato Colombini – Pope Urban V approves the rule of the Jesuits of the Blessed Colombini (Crescenzio Gambarelli, 1600);
Predica di S. Bernardino in Piazza del Campo contro i giochi d'azzardo – Sermon by Saint Bernadino in Piazza del Campo against gambling - multicoloured and painted by Ventura Salimbeni (1598);
Il Capitano del Popolo ingiunge a Carlo IV di uscire da Siena – The Captain of the People orders Charles IV to leave Siena - (uncertain attribution, perhaps by Sebastiano Folli or Jacopo Rustici);
Papa Pio II consacra arcivescovo di Siena Don Antonio Piccolomini – Pope Pius II consecrates Don Antonio Piccolomini Archbishop of Siena - an outstanding work by Rutilio Manetti (1598);
Vittoria dei senesi sugli orvietani – Sienese Victory over the Orvietani - (uncertain attribution, perhaps by Sebastiano Folli or Jacopo Rustici);
S.Ansano battezza i senesi – Saint Ansano baptizes the Sienese - and the Martirio di S.Ansano – Martyrdom of Saint Ansano - (Vincenzo Rustici, 1596);
Stemma di Cosimo II dei Medici fra due figure allegoriche – Cosimo II dei Medici coat of arms between two allegorical figures - (Unknown or Sebastiano Folli);
Il Beato Ambrogio Sansedoni ottiene da Martino IV l'assoluzione degli interdetti contro Siena – The Blessed Ambrogio Sansedoni obtains absolution from Martin IV for crimes against Siena - (Francesco Vanni, 1596);
Vittoria dei Senesi contro Arrigo VII a Radi – Sienese Victory in Radi against Arrigo VII (Francesco Vanni, 1598);
S.Caterina esorta Gregorio XI a tornare a Roma – Saint Catherine urges Gregory XI to return to Rome - another superb lunette by Manetti;
Pio II dona a Siena il braccio del Battista – Pius II gives the arm of John the Baptist to the City of Siena - (Paolo Pisani, 1592);
Vittoria di Montaperti – Victory at Montaperti – a vivid painting by Salimbeni (1597);
Carlo IV concede benefici all'Università senese by Folli (1598);
Assedio di Antiochia dei soldati senesi – Siege of Antiochia by Sienese Soldiers
Patriarca della città – Patriarch of the city, also by Salimbeni (1597);
Proclamazione di Papa Niccolò II – Proclamation of Pope Nicholas II - (unknown artist);
Vittoria dei senesi a Rosario su Enrico VI – Sienese Victory over Henry VI in Rosario - probably by Folli.
From the Piazza del Campo one of the most famous monuments of Siena stands out – the iconic Torre del Mangia. After the tower in Pisa, it is without doubt the most easily recognised tower in Tuscany, indeed in the whole of Italy. It was named after Giovanni di Balduccio, nicknamed ''il Mangia'' or ''Mangiaguadagni'' because of his combination of gluttony and miserliness. He rang the hours in the bell tower and his likenesses in wood and in stone substituted for him in the role of bell-ringer for centuries after his death.
The Torre del Mangia, Top of the tower
The Torre del Mangia
The tower was started in 1325 and finished in 1348, just before the arrival of the Black Death. It is 87 metres high (102 with the lightning conductor). The tower was designed by Francesco and Muccio di Rinaldo, artists from Arezzo, who entrusted its construction to Mastro Agostino di Giovanni. The whole tower is in cotto - Tuscan red brick - except for the cresting at the top, done in white travertine marble. This elongated cresting was apparently designed, by the great Lippo Memmi, Simone Martini's brother-in-law. The clock was added in 1360 by Bartolomeo Guidi. The clock face was painted in 1428 and in 1776 reclad in stone, decorated with a fresco which was covered. These last two elements disappeared with the restoration done at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The campana maggiore dates back to 1666, the third replacement after the original of 1348 and the unsuccessful one of 1634. It weighs 6.76 tonnes and because of its bulk, was installed above the bell-chamber, where it is now. Even this melted down version was not done perfectly, so to improve its sound, a small section was removed. Even today, its sound varies according to where it is struck by the batacchio - the clapper. Rung manually only on the day of the Palio, its particular sound is associated by the Sienese with the imminence of the festival.
Piazza del Mercato
Behind and below the Palazzo Pubblico and the Campo lies the wide Piazza del Mercato, closed on three sides by graceful medieval houses.
Loggia del Mercato
To the south the piazza looks out over countryside, a breathtaking vista. Walking around the Piazza, the simpler reverse of the Palazzo and its magnificent loggia are clearly visible.
The Palazzo Pubblico
Returning to the Campo, along the via Salicotto, it is easy to make out the part added to the Palazzo in 1325. The project directors were Minuccio di Scotto and Minuccio di Tura. The result of their work was an expansion of the rooms in the Palazzo and the reorganisation of the basement, used as a prison.
Piazza del Mercato