Stefano di Giovanni, known as « Il Sassetta », Christ Instituting the Eucharist, 1424. Inv. 167 predella panel of the Arte della Lana altarpiece Tempera on board, 24.1 x 37.9 cm Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
BRUSSELS.- BOZAR pays tribute to Siena with over sixty exceptionally refined masterpieces from the collection of the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena, supplemented with loans from French museums. The public can see about sixty unique works, dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, which are being exhibited in the capital of Europe for the first time. The thematic arrangement of the works gives visitors the opportunity to discover masterpieces from the heyday of the European Gothic Age.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Siena was one of the leading artistic, financial and intellectual centres of Europe. The Sienese artists and their workshops enjoyed an excellent reputation and were renowned for their unparalleled craftsmanship and refined painting style. They received commissions from some of the most prominent and richest clients in Europe. Popes, emperors, rich merchants and public institutions readily purchased the works of these talented artists.
“Ars narrandi”, the art of storytelling
A new style developed under the impetus of painters such as Duccio, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti brothers, Sassetta and Giovanni Di Paolo. The Sienese masters gradually broke free from the shackles of the Byzantine tradition with its idealised, divine and static figures, developing a more narrative visual language instead. The Sienese painters “narrated” well-known Biblical stories in a lively and recognisable manner. Their figures looked more human, openly showed their feelings and wore contemporary clothes. This way, the faithful could better identify with these pious examples. The didactical role of these paintings should not be underestimated at a time when the majority of the population was illiterate.
Siena, a European crossroads
Siena’s location along the Via Francigena, the pilgrim’s route which runs from the north of Europe to Rome, past the southern Italian ports to the Holy Land, turned the city into an important centre of trade, promoting artistic exchanges. The paintings, often small diptychs that were easy to transport, portable altarpieces and miniatures, were distributed via this route. They fascinated the other centres in Europe, and ultimately left their mark on art throughout the rest of Europe.
Giovanni di Paolo, Madonna of Humility, c. 1450, Inv. 206, tempera on board (with original frame), 62 x 47,5 cm. Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Angelo Puccinelli, Saint Michael Archangel on a Throne with Saints Anthony Abbot and John the Baptist, 1370-1380, Inv. 67, tempera and gold on board, 182 x 154 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Sano di Pietro, Saint Catherine of Siena, c. 1470, Inv. 264, tempera on board, 41 x 16,5 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Dietisalvi di Speme, Madonna with Child on a Throne and Two Angels (called Madonna di San Bernardino), 1262, Inv. 16, tempera on board, 142 x 100 cm Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Pietro Lorenzetti, Christ Resurrected, c. 1336, Inv. FPI 0062, detached fresco, 194.5 x 107.5 cm, Siena, Museo Diocesano.
Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Susanna at the Elders, c. 1460, Inv. 275, tempera and gold on panel, 30 x 40 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Stefano di Giovanni , known as « Il Sassetta », Saint Bernardino from Siena, 1444, Inv. 205, tempera on board, 177.5 x 52.8 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Margarito d’Arezzo, Saint Francis of Assisi, 1240-1245, Inv. 2, tempera on board, 95 x 37 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Duccio and workshop (Master of the Maestà Gondi), Madonna on a Throne with Child and Stories of the Virgin, 1311-1313, Inv. 35, portable triptych gold foil and tempera on board, 89 x 68 cm (ouvert), Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Simone Martini, Madonna with Child, 1300-1310, Inv. 583, tempera on board, 88 x 57 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Cennino Cennini, La Nativité de la Vierge, 1390-1400, Inv 317, tempera sur panneau, 86 x 67 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale (on temporary deposit at Colle di Val d’Elsa, Museo Civico e Diocesano d’Arte Sacra).
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Madonna with Child, c. 1340, Inv. 605, tempera on board, 108 x 63 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Sano di Pietro, Assumption of the Virgin with Hosanna and Musical Angels, 1430-1440, Inv. 227 tempera on board (with original frame), 69.3 x 53 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Francesco di Valdambrino, Infant Jesus Blessing, c. 1403-1409, Inv. 36 IBS, carved, painted and gilded wood, h 41 cm Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Andrea Vanni Crucifixion with Mourners and Saint Mary Magdalene; sides: Two Prophets; in the trefoils above: Two Prophets, in half-bust, c. 1396, Inv. 114, tempera on board, 105 x 90 cm Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia, Last Judgement, Paradise, Hell, c. 1460-1465, Inv. 172, tempera on board, 42 x 253 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Paolo di Giovanni Fei, Osservanza diptych, Madonna with Child and Throne, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Two Angels (left); Crucifixion with Magdalene, Two Marys and the Fainted Virgin, Saint John Evangelist (right); cusps Angel Announcing (left), Annunciation Virgin (right), 1390-1395, Inv. 146, tempera on board, 53 x 48.5 cm, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.