Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ambrogio Lorenzetti Exhibition in Siena

The Italian city of Siena is currently hosting a wonderful show of works by one of her great native sons, the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1290-1348). The younger brother of another very talented painter, Pietro, we know fairly little about Ambrogio’s life. Active from around 1319 until his death, he spent a fair amount of time in Florence, then a bitter rival of Siena for prominence among the independent cities of Tuscany. His style blends the best of the Florentine interest in realism with the Sienese taste for extremely fine and beautiful decoration; in this sense, he develops what is best about the works of earlier Sienese painters like Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, and his brother. His most famous and important work by far is the fresco cycle in the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall) of Siena, known as the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. It is generally believed that he died in the great outbreak of the black plague which devastated the city in 1348.

The current show makes it possible to see several of his large body of work in various forms, gathered together from many different places and displayed in the large complex of Santa Maria della Scala, right across the street from the cathedral. Other works are included as part of the same show at the churches of St Francis and St Augustine.

Here is just a selection of some of the pieces included at Santa Maria della Scala; the exhibition continues until January 28th. A second part will be posted tomorrow.

A detached piece of a fresco showing a group of Poor Clares, from the chapter hall of the church of St Francis in Siena, 1320-25 ca.
King Solomon, detached fresco, some provenance as above.
Painted Crucifix, from the parish of St Lucy at Montenero d’Orcia. 1320-25 ca.
Painted crucifix, 1324-7.
A detail of the background; this is the kind of highly elaborate and elegant work for which Sienese painters were so much admired and sought after in the 14th century.
Altarpiece of the church of St Proculus in Florence, 1332, with the Madonna and Child, St Nicholas and St Proculus; in the pinnacles, Christ, St John the Evangelist (left) and St John the Baptist (right.)
Detail of St Nicholas
Also from the church of St Proculus in Florence, two panels of the life of St Nicholas. Here, the gift of the dowries and his ordination; below, the raising of a dead child killed by a devil, and the miraculous saving of grain ships from destruction.

Altarpiece with central panel missing; on the left, Ss Benedict and Catherine of Alexandria, on the right, Ss Mary Magdalene and Francis. From the cathedral museum of Siena, ca. 1335.
Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John, 1317-19 ca. 
Madonna and Child, from the church in the hermitage of San Salvatore in Lecceto, ca, 1325. The first words of the Ave Maria (“Ave Maria, gratia plena, benedicta”) are written in her halo.

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