Study Of Art – Pinturicchio (Bernardo Di Benedetto Biagio). 1454-1513.

Pinturicchio, the ” little painter,” was a Perugian by birth. He probably studied under Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, but is first mentioned in 1482 as Perugino’s partner in the work in the Sistine Chapel, two of the frescos being attributed to him, though showing Perugino’s influence. In 1484 he decorated the Bufalini Chapel in S. Maria in Aracoeli with the story of S. Bernardino. He was employed by several popes and cardinals through a series of years in decorating the choir and several chapels in S. Maria del Popolo. His chief work in Rome was the decoration of the rooms of the Vatican occupied by Pope Alexander VI, known as the Appartamenti Borgia. These subjects he repeated in 1501 in the cathedral of Spello, skilfully adapting them to the smaller spaces. In 1502 he was commissioned to commemorate the life of Pope Pius II on the walls of the Piccolomini Library in Siena, completing the work in 1508. A chapel in the cathedral is of this period. His frescos are gay in color, with large use of gold and ultramarine, retouched a secco (after they were dry). He also used gesso, stucco laid in relief, covered with gold leaf to make more actual the ornaments in which he delighted. His panel pieces, few in number, are always in tempera.

Lo Spagna, probably of Spanish origin, was a pains-taking but uninspired painter who followed Perugino and Raphael so closely that his work has sometimes been confused with theirs. His life after 1507 was spent largely in Umbria, and his work is found in many of the provincial towns, especially in and about Spoleto.


No. 271. St. James Preaching.

S. Maria del Popolo, Rome.

Fresco painted about 1485 in the Rovere Chapel of this popular church, which had been recently restored by Sixtus IV. The altarpiece, a Nativity, resembles an Adoration by Fiorenzo in Perugia. Scenes from the life of St. Jerome fill the lunettes. In this one, St. Jerome, seated at the left in a red robe, presents the Christian doctrine to the Oriental scholar opposite, he and his followers being distinguished by their turbans.

Great emphasis is laid upon the balance of the picture; the figures are dignified, the landscape seen through the open loggia has great charm. Study the relative interest of figures and landscape, the effect of the landscape upon the wall surface of the chapel.

No. 272. Holy Family.

Academy, Siena.

Tondo, 2 feet 9 inches in diameter, from the convent of Campansi, Siena. Painted while Pinturicchio was engaged on the decoration of the Library.

An unusual presentation of the theme, and worthy of attentive study.

No. 273. Madonna with Angels and Donor. Cathedral, San Severino.

Painted about 1489. Above is a small lunette of God the Father in a half mandorla of cherubs’ heads. The face of the donor has been retouched. The natural arch of rocks in the background is often introduced by Pinturicchio.

Compare the types of faces with 272, with the Perugino type, with wellknown pictures by Raphael. Study the Umbrian traits.

No. 275. Music.

Appartamenti Borgia, Vatican, Rome.

The Borgia Apartments, situated below the Stanze of Raphael, were decorated by Pinturicchio in 1492—1494 at the order of Pope Alexander VI. The rooms were closed for many years after the Borgia’s death. Under Leo XIII they were carefully restored, no repainting being allowed, and are now to be seen almost in their original freshness.

The decorations of the first three rooms were designed by Pinturicchio himself, and much of the work was his. In the scene of the Ascension, the Pope kneels by the open tomb. In the hall of the Saints, Lucrezia Borgia appears as St. Catherine debating with the Doctors. In the Hall of Arts and Sciences, perhaps the Pope’s library, allegorical figures seated on thrones are surrounded by appropriate figures. One of the most beautiful is Music playing a violin. The heavy green curtains behind her throne are held up by cherubs. Tubal Cain at the right beats with musical rhythm upon his anvil. In the background is repeated the arch of rocks. Cf. 273. A gold mosaic forms the sky, and gold is much used throughout.

Compare with wall decorations by Perugino.

No. 274. Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini as Ambassador to Scotland.

No. 276. View of the Piccolomini Library.

Cathedral, Siena.

The Library was built in 1495 by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, later Pius III, to contain the manuscripts and books collected by his uncle Aeneas Sylvius, Pius II. In 1502 he commissioned Pinturicchio to decorate the room, which adjoins the north aisle of the cathedral, with ten scenes commemorating events in the life of the famous humanist. Between the pictures are pilasters decorated in the style then known as ” Grotesque.”

The contract bound the artist to execute all the drawing himself, paint the heads and finish the frescos a secco ” till all was perfect.” The work was completed in 1508.

274, the second of the series, shows Aeneas Sylvius before King James of Scotland, as envoy from the Council of Basle, to induce him to join with Charles V against the English king, Henry VI, and to reinstate certain of his subjects in their confiscated fiefs. This mission was undertaken early in Piccolomini’s career.

The scenes are all characterized by an admirable dignity and balance, yet without monotony. They are wonderfully fresh and gay in color and full of air and light. The landscape backgrounds are especially beautiful. They have, however, destroyed the impression of the wall. Notice in 276 that each fresco seems an alcove opening out of the room. Study the causes for this impression and its decorative effect. Compare with mosaics and other wall decorations.

It is noticeable that throughout Pinturicchio’s work the impression secured is that of general effect rather than of individual action or expression.

For the possible part taken by Raphael in the work of the Library read Phillipps, 116—123; Schmarsow, Raphael and Pinturicchio in Siena.

No. 277. Madonna, Saints, and Angels. S. Francesco, Assisi.

In oil, 7 by 51 feet, painted in 1516. This is considered Lo Spagna’s best altarpiece. The saints are Catherine with her wheel, Francis, a nun, Roch, Chiara, and Louis of France with the crown, the last a very fine figure. Compare with the Sposalizio 259, attributed by Mr. Berenson to Lo Spagna. Compare with other Umbrian pictures.