PeruginoPietro Vannucci, called Il Perugino (‘the Perugian’). His family was from Castel (now Città) della Pieve, a town near Chiusi which had been under Perugia’s control since 1198. According to Vasari, he was 78 when he died, implying that he was born in about 1445; while according to Giovanni Santi he was the same age as Leonardo da Vinci, who was born in 1452. Vasari emphasizes Perugino’s humble origins, but his family was probably reasonably well off as it enjoyed citizenship rights. Vasari says that he was apprenticed to some inferior Perugian painter (whom he does not name) but subsequently trained in Verrocchio’s Florentine bottega. (Vasari also says that a ‘Piero da Castel della Pieve’ was a pupil of Piero della Francesca at Arezzo, but, contrary to a common assumption, this Piero seems not to have been Perugino but another artist altogether.) Perugino was certainly in Florence by 1472, when he enrolled there in the Compagnia di San Luca. A number of panel paintings (including an altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi mentioned by Vasari and now in the Perugia gallery, small predella panels at Liverpool and in the Louvre, and Madonnas, apparently based on Verrocchio’s designs, at the Jacquemart-André Museum and elsewhere) have been attributed to Perugino as works of the early or mid-1470s; but the earliest painting by him that can be secured dated is a fragmentary fresco of 1478 at Cerqueto, just south of Perugia.
Perugino's first major commissions were in Rome, where around 1479 he painted a fresco (now lost) for Sixtus IV in the apse of the Cappella del Coro in the Old St Peter’s. In 1480-82, he worked with the team of mainly Florentine painters, including Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, that decorated the walls of the newly built Sistine Chapel. Perugino painted the most important scenes (including three, subsequently destroyed, on the altar wall) and may have supervised the project.
For the next thirty years or so, Perugino divided his time mainly between Florence and Perugia. Between 1487 and 1511 he rented a studio in the Via San Gilio in Florence (across from Santa Maria Nuova), which was celebrated as the place where Ghiberti had cast the Gates of Paradise. From 1501 he began renting a studio in Perugia as well (in the Palazzo Nuovo dell’Ospedale della Misericordia), where most of his later works were produced. For a time, he was probably the most popular painter in Italy. His prestigious and varied clientele included Lorenzo de' Medici, Ludovico Sforza, Isabella d'Este, the Neapolitan humanist Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, the immensely wealthy Chigi banking family, and Popes Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII and Julius II.
As well as works (fresco cycles, altarpieces, smaller devotional pictures and a few portraits) for patrons in Florence and Perugia, he attracted commissions from Orvieto (1490), Rome (1490 and 1491), Lucca (1494), Cremona (1494), Venice (1494 and 1495), Pavia (1496), Fano (1497), Sinigaglia (about 1497), Bologna (about 1497), Siena (1502), Mantua (1503), and Naples (about 1508). He then fell rapidly out of favour as the new High Renaissance style came into vogue. After his Assumption was unveiled in November 1507 in the Florentine church of the Annunziata, the ageing painter was ridiculed (according to Vasari) by the city's younger artists for repeating the figure designs he had used in other altarpieces. He never received another major Florentine commission. He was called to Rome again in 1508 to participate with Sodoma, Signorelli and others in the decoration of the Vatican Stanze, but he was soon dismissed by Julius II, who entrusted all the work to his former pupil Raphael. He spent his last years in the less critical milieu of his native Umbria, working for patrons in Perugia and in nearby towns such as Bettona (1512), Corciano (1512), his native Città della Pieve (1514 and 1517), Montefalco (1515), Trevi (1521), Spello (1521), and Fontignano, where he died of the plague in February 1523.
Perugino’s art is static, quiet and pious. Sweet-faced Madonnas, and saints with tilted heads and drooping postures, are represented against flowing landscapes under gentle light. The ‘sweetness in the blending of colours’ praised by Vasari was achieved using a remarkable (for a central Italian painter) oil technique with an elaborate build-up of glazes. The output from his studios in Florence and Perugia was prodigious. (It has been calculated that he received well over two hundred commissions during his long career.) Drawings and cartoons were reused to repeat figures, heads, poses and even whole compositions. He made very considerable use of assistants and collaborators. His assistants in Florence included Lo Spagna (Giovanni di Pietro), Gerino da Pistoia, Rocco Zoppo (best known for painting portraits according to Vasari) and Bacchiacca. His assistants in Perugia included Andrea Alovigi (called Andrea d’Assisi or L’Ingegno, who Vasari says helped Perugino on his most important commissions), Eusebio da San Giorgio (who completed the vast Sant’Agostino Altarpiece after Perugino’s death), Giannicola di Paolo (called Smicca and, erroneously, Manni), Giovann Battista Caporali, Giovanni di Francesco Ciambello (called Il Fantasia) and Roberto da Montevarchi. Raphael was probably associated with Perugino's workshop for a time, though whether he was Perugino's apprentice, assistant, collaborator or merely a member of his circle remains a matter of debate.
The declining quality, repetitiveness and sheer volume of Perugino's later workshop productions, and the countless paintings of his Umbrian pupils and imitators, has tended to obscure his achievements. His finest works of the 1480s and 1490s – such as the frescoes of the Giving of the Keys in the Sistine Chapel and the Crucifixion in the Florentine church of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi – are among the masterpieces of late Quattrocento painting.
Altenburg. Lindenau Museum.
Blessed Francis of Siena; Saint Margaret of Antioch. Wood, each 158 x 65.
The Blessed Francis of Siena (Beato Francesco Patrizi) was an early fourteenth-century Servite preacher famed for his devotion to the Virgin Mary. He holds a lily and book, and was previously misidentified as St Anthony of Padua. St Margaret of Antioch (identified until recently as St Helen) holds a tiny cross, along with a book, in her left hand. The figures stand in narrow shell niches (cropped at the top). The two panels belonged to the huge double-sided altarpiece painted in 1503-7 for the high altar of Santissima Annunziata in Florence. They flanked the Assumption on the back of the altarpiece which is still in the church. On the front, the Deposition (Academia, Florence), which was started by Filippino Lippi, was flanked by panels of St John the Baptist and St Lucy (Metropolitan Museum, New York). On the two ends were panels (now cut down) of St Filippo Benizzi (Galleria Nazionale, Rome) and St Catherine of Alexandria (private collection). Bought by von Lindenau in 1848 from Ludwig Metzger, a German dealer operating in Florence, who also owned the two panels now in New York.
Assisi. Santa Maria degli Angeli. Cappella degli Porziuncola
Fragment of a fresco of the Crucifixion.
The Porziuncola, now covered by the immense Baroque edifice of Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the little rustic chapel that St Francis rebuilt and where his first disciples gathered. Vasari says that Perugino painted 'in fresco, a Christ on the Cross, with many figures, on the wall at the back of the chapel'. The upper part of the fresco was probably destroyed in 1569, when the fifteenth-century choir, built against the apse of the Porziuncola, was demolished. The surviving lower part of the fresco was recovered from whitewash in 1830 and then completely repainted. It shows a group of the fainting Virgin and Maries, similar to that added by Perugino to Filippino Lippi’s Deposition (Accademia, Florence). The execution may be at least partly by Andrea d’Assisi (L’Ingegno), who Vasari says assisted Perugino in the Sistine Chapel and Cambio and at Assisi. Restored in 1998, when some of the nineteenth-century repaint was removed.
An Annunciation frescoed on the apse of the Porziuncola was also discovered under whitewash in the early nineteenth century and subsequently repainted. The figures of the Angel and Virgin were detached from the wall in 1975 and are now displayed in the Museo della Portiuncula.
Assisi. Oratorio dei Pellegrini.
Saint Ansanus. Fresco.
The figure is frescoed on the inside wall of the façade, in a corner to the right of the door. The youthful, fair-haired saint holds his lungs, heart and liver suspended from his finger – a reference to his gruesome martyr's death. The fresco was attributed by Berenson (1897) to Perugino's slightly older Perugian contemporary Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. It is now usually given either to Perugino, as an early work, or to the shadowy Andrea d'Assisi, who is documented in Perugino's workshop in the 1480s and assisted him in the Sistine Chapel. The Saint Ansanus is strikingly similar in style to some subsidiary figures in Perugino's Sistine Chapel fresco of the Baptism of Christ.
The figure of Saint James of Campostella, frescoed to the left of the door, is sometimes thought to be by the same hand as the Saint Ansanus.
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 63 x 49.
A little known late work (about 1520), freely painted and richly coloured. The poses of the Virgin and Child are similar to those in the picture in the Capodimonte, Naples, though there the Virgin is full length. The panel is said to have come from the collections of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and the Duke of Lucca. Sold in 1903 with the collection of Mrs Susan Clarke Warren (widow of the Boston paper manufacturer Samuel Dennis Warren). Acquired by Henry Walters by 1909.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Nativity. Wood, 35 x 45.
Perugino and his prolific workshop repeated this composition many times. Essentially the same scene appears, for example, in a large fresco in the Cambio at Perugia and in a small predella panel in the Chicago Art Institute. The Bergamo panel, which is similar in size to the one at Chicago, was probably produced in Perugino's workshop in the early 1500s. Bequeathed with the Lochis collection in 1859.
Last Supper. Wood, 18 x 121.
Dated 1500 on the right. The predella of the Pala Tezi, painted for the Cappella dei Tezi in the church of Sant’Agostino at Perugia. The composition resembles that of the Last Supper in the Cenacolo di Foligno at Florence, and the execution is ascribed to Perugino’s studio (Berto di Giovanni?). The predella was probably stolen from Sant'Agostino during the French occupation of Perugia in 1797. It was acquired at Frankfurt for the Berlin Museum in 1883 (with an attribution to Gerino da Pistoia). The Last Supper was reunited with the main panel of the altarpiece for the exhibition (Perugino: Il Divin Pittore) in Perugia in 2004.
Bettona (20 km south-east of Perugia). Museo Civico (Palazzo del Podestà).
Votive Portrait of Bartolomeo Maraglia. Canvas, 143 x 68.
Apparently a banner, carried in processions. Worn and abraded (particularly towards the bottom), and retouched. Bartolomeo Maraglia was a Perugian captain, under Giampaolo Baglioni, who fought against the French. As the inscription states, the picture was ordered to honour a vow made when he was taken prisoner on 11 February 1512 at the Battle of Marignano. He is shown as a tiny kneeling figure in full armour, looking up at a life-size St Anthony who holds a book in one hand and the fire in the other. The inscription also gives Perugino’s name. From Sant’Antonio, the church of the Minorites at Bettona.
‘Madonna della Misericordia’. Wood, 201 x 147.
The Madonna shelters the kneeling figures of St Stephen and St Jerome under her cloak. (The saint on the left, dressed as a deacon, was traditionally called St Manno and has also been called St Lawrence, but the stone on his shoulder seems to identify him as Stephen.) A diminutive male donor, aged and soberly dressed in grey, stands behind St Stephen and a female donor, perhaps his wife, stands behind St Jerome. A late work, probably contemporary with the Votive Portrait of Bartolomeo Maraglia and also from the church of the Minorites at Bettona. The attribution to Perugino was published by Antonio Mezzanotte in his 1836 Italian monograph on the painter.
The two paintings by Perugino were stolen from the little museum in 1987. They were discovered in Jamaica and returned to Bettona in 1990.
Birmingham (Alabama). Museum of Art.
Saint Bartholomew. Wood, 90 x 72.
The apostle holds the knife with which, according to tradition, he was flayed alive. The panel, now with an arched top, was originally square or rectangular and has been substantially cut down. It came from the back of the huge double-sided altarpiece ordered in 1502 for the church of Sant’Agostino at Perugia and still slightly unfinished at Perugino’s death in 1523. It was probably one of the last of the thirty-odd panels to be painted. The polyptych was dismembered in the seventeenth century, and the Saint Bartolomew was one of seven panels taken from the church by the French invaders in 1797. By 1850 it had passed into a French private collection. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1938, and given to the Birmingham Museum in 1952.
Bologna. Pinacoteca Nazionale.
*Madonna in Glory with Saints ('San Giovanni in Monte Altarpiece'). Wood, 276 x 213.
The Virgin and Child, framed in a mandorla of cherubs' heads and flanked by a pair of adoring angels in flight, appear to four life-size saints in a landscape. A youthful St Michael, similar to the figure in the nearly contemporary Certosa altarpiece (now in the London National Gallery), wears fanciful Roman armour and leans on an elaborately decorated shield. Catherine of Alexandria, gazing in adoration at the heavenly vision, is identified by the spiked wheel on the ground behind her. St Apollonia holds a book and pair of pincers, and John the Evangelist is identified by the eagle on the ground beside him. Signed in gold letters on the rim of St Catherine's wheel. This fine, richly coloured altarpiece was painted around 1500 for the Cappella Scarani (later Vizzani) in the church of San Giovanni in Monte at Bologna. (The chapel was constructed by 20 March 1497 and assigned to Michele Scarani on 4 January 1499.) The picture was plundered by the French in 1796 and returned to Bologna in 1815.
Bordeaux. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Madonna enthroned with Saints and Angels ('Capra Altarpiece'). Canvas (transferred from panel), 217 x 185.
The Virgin is enthroned in a richly decorated exedra with a semi-dome shaped like a scallop shell. St Jerome, wearing a cardinal's scarlet robes, stands on the left. St Augustine, on the right, has the black habit of an Augustinian friar under his bishop's cope. The scholarship of the two Doctors of the Church is indicated by the books they hold and the piles of books and scrolls on the ledge behind them. Pairs of angels kneel on clouds in the upper corners. Painted, probably around 1505-10, for the Cappella di San Nicolò da Tolentino in the church of Sant'Agostino at Perugia. Vasari says the patron was 'Benedetto Calera', but he seems to have misread the name in the inscription (now lost), and the altarpiece is likely to have been commissioned by Filippo di Benedetto Capra, a descendant of the celebrated jurist Benedetto Capra. The altarpiece was moved in 1653 from the left transept to a pillar in the choir, and later placed in the Cappella di San Tommaso di Villanova (first on the right). It originally had a predella with three scenes from the Life of St Nicholas of Tolentino. Requisitioned by the French in 1797 and sent to Bordeaux in 1803. The execution (which appears to be in egg tempera rather than Perugino's usual oil) may be largely by a workshop collaborator (Giovanni Battista Caporali?).
Caen. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
*Marriage of the Virgin (Sposalizio). Wood, 234 x 185.
The picture shows Joseph placing the ring on the Virgin's finger. According to the Golden Legend, the Virgin's suitors had to bring rods to the temple and the suitor whose rod burst into flower was to be the one chosen. Joseph holds the rod that has flowered. To the left, an unsuccessful suitor breaks his rod over his knee. As in the famous fresco of the Giving of the Keys in the Sistine Chapel, Perugino has set the scene in a great piazza with an octagonal temple in the centre and the figures are arranged like a frieze along the bottom of the picture. The picture was painted for the altar of the Cappella del Santo Anello in the cathedral at Perugia. The chapel houses the supposed wedding ring of the Virgin, brought to Perugia in 1473 by a friar, Winterio di Magonza, who had ‘piously stolen it’ from Chiusi. On16 September 1489, the Company of San Guiseppe ordered the altarpiece from Pintoricchio, who failed to deliver. On 11 April 1499, the commission was given to Perugino, but the painting was still unfinished in December 1503.
Raphael painted his similar picture of the Sposalizio (now in the Brera) for San Francesco in Città di Castello in 1504. Berenson (1902) controversially argued that the Caen picture was by Lo Spagna, and a copy of Raphael’s picture rather than the prototype. It has long since been reassigned to Perugino, but the execution may be in considerable part by his studio. One of thirty-two pictures from Perugia (twelve by Perugino) carried off by the French in 1797. Dispatched to Caen in 1804. The French neoclassical artist Jean-Baptiste Wicar painted a substitute in 1825: his version of the Marriage of the Virgin remains in the chapel in Perugia Cathedral. Perugino's Sposalizio was briefly loaned to the Brera in November 2015-January 2016, so that it could be exhibited alongside Raphael's Sposalizio.
Saint Jerome. Wood, 90 x 74.
The saint kneels penitent before a crucifix, his lion close by and his large red cardinal’s hat hanging from the tree. Signed at the foot of the cross. This panel is traditionally believed to have come from the great altarpiece of Sant’Agostino at Perugia, but it is in fact recorded at Fontainebleau as early as 1625 and may have been acquired by Louis XII in Perugino’s lifetime. Transferred to Caen in 1804. Sometimes ascribed to Perugino’s studio, it has been dated as early as 1498 and as late as 1516.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 53 x 45.
This rather abraded picture is probably a comparatively late work of Perugino's studio. There are other versions in the Borghese Gallery (Rome), Pushkin Museum (Moscow) and several private collections. The design of the Virgin and Child is virtually repeated from that in the altarpiece, dated 1497, at Fano (though the position of the Child is reversed). From the collection of Julius Charles Hare, a Cambridge theologian best known as the author of Guesses at Truth. Donated by his widow in 1855.
Cerqueto (22 km south of Perugia). Church (Santa Maria Assunta).
Saint Sebastian. Detached fresco, 170 x 102.
Perugino’s earliest securely attributed and dated work: a (modern) inscription gives his name and the year 1478. Now displayed in a frame on the right side of the church, it is all that remains of a series of frescoes. It was reduced in size in 1779, when the church was refurbished, and the edges are broken and extremely irregular. Only fragments remain of the figures of St Roch (displaying the ulcer on his thigh) and another saint (probably Peter) at the sides. The chapel was dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and the wall above the altar originally depicted the saint surmounted by the Holy Trinity.
Chantilly. Musée Condé.
Madonna with Saints Jerome and Peter. Wood, 145 x 128.
From the church of San Gerolamo at Lucca. Later in the collections of the Duke of Lucca, Lord Northwick and the Duc d’Aumale. The execution (which appears to be in egg tempera rather than Perugino's usual oil) is probably by a workshop collaborator (Andrea d’Assisi or Rocco Zoppo?).
Chicago. Art Institute.
Four predella panels. Canvas (transferred from panel), each 27 x 43.
The Nativity, Baptism, Christ and the Woman of Samaria and Noli me Tangere. Bequeathed to the Art Institute by Martin Ryerson in 1933. A fifth panel of the Resurrection (which was also in the nineteenth-century London collections of Alexander Barker and the Earl of Dudley) is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The predella, with its broad brushwork and subtle colouring, probably dates from the early years of the sixteenth century. It has been linked both with the large double-sided altarpiece painted in 1503-7 for the high altar of the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence and with the Crucifixion commissioned in 1502 for the Chigi altar in the church of Sant'Agostino in Siena. However, objections have been raised to identifying the predella with either altarpiece. The Baptism is similar to an earlier predella panel (from the San Pietro Altarpiece of 1496-98) at Rouen.
Città della Pieve. Oratorio dei Santa Maria dei Bianchi.
*Adoration of the Magi. Fresco, 650 x 700.
In the background, a view from Città della Pieve towards Lake Trasimeno. We know from two letters, discovered in 1835 and displayed in the oratorio, that the Priori of Città della Pieve asked Perugino in February 1504 what price he would charge to paint an Adoration. Perugino replied that his normal price would be 200 florins but that he would halve the price out of love for his native town. The Priori held out for still better terms, and Perugino eventually, on 1 March, dropped the price to 75 florins (to be paid at a rate of 25 florins a year). The huge fresco (over 20 feet square with about thirty life-size figures) was probably painted in the summer of 1504 (the year inscribed beneath the feet of the Virgin). Restored in 1984.
Città della Pieve. Duomo (San Gervasio).
Virgin in Glory with Saints. Wood, 240 x 220.
Still in situ, over the high altar. The Virgin, seated in a mandorla of cherubs' heads and flanked by praying angels, appears in glory to Saints Protasius, Peter, Paul and Gervasius. The twin brothers and early Christian martyrs Protasius and Gervasius are the patron saints of Città della Pieve, and hold flags with the arms of the city. The altarpiece was ordered in 1513 by Marchisino Cristophori Manni, Prior of San Gervasio, for 120 florins. Signed and dated 1514. Some critics have seen the hand of a local assistant, Giacomo di Gugliemo.
Baptism of Christ. Wood, 210 x 160.
Painted for a chapel, dedicated to the Baptist, which was completed by 7 May 1510. Perugino painted some half-dozen other versions of this subject, and the languid figures of Christ and the Baptist are similar to those in the Sistine Chapel fresco (1481-82), the Rouen predella panel (1496-98), a small panel at Vienna (late 1490s?), the Chicago predella panel (around 1500-5?), the Foligno fresco (1507?), the predella panel in the Perugia gallery (1517-18?) and the large panel from the Sant'Agostino Altarpiece (1512-23). The picture is now In the Cappella del Rosario (first on the left), enclosed in a grandiose Baroque marble frame. Damaged by flaking and cracking. Restored in 2010.
Città della Pieve. Santa Maria dei Servi. Cappella della Compagnia della Stella.
Descent from the Cross. Fresco, 556 x 417.
A fragment: the entire upper middle section was cut away to make a door for a cantoria and part has been lost to damp. The group of the fainting Virgin supported by the two Maries repeats that in the Deposition in the Academia, Florence. On the adjacent wall is a ruined fresco of the Eternal Father and mourning figures around a niche, which once contained a terracotta Pietà. The other two walls are said to have been frescoed with an Annunciation and an Entombment. Dated 1517.
The deconsecrated church now serves as the Diocesan Museum and can be visited only by appointment.
Città della Pieve. San Pietro (formerly San Antonio Abate). Sanctuary.
Saint Anthony Abbot enthroned with Saints. Detached fresco, 535 x 387.
The three saints are identified by inscriptions on the base of the throne. Anthony Abbot, larger than life size, is enthroned in the centre. His right hand is raised in blessing and his left hand rests on his Tau-shaped staff. Two lamps, hanging from a rod running across the top of the throne, burn above the heads of the saints – Paul the Hermit and Marcellus – standing at the sides. The lunette depicts Christ blessing in a mandorla of cherubs' heads. When the church was shaken by an earthquake in 1860, the huge fresco was detached from the wall and transferred to canvas. An early black-and-white photograph appears to show it in good condition. It is now very damaged and retouched.
Corciano (8 km west of Perugia). Santa Maria.
Assumption. Wood, 226 x 149.
St Thomas kneels in the centre with the Virgin's girdle; most of the other Apostles repeat the figures in the Ascension at Lyon. A comparatively late work, doubtless painted with a great deal of studio assistance. The carpentry was ordered in April 1509 from the wood carver Antonio da Marcatello, who was asked to copy the support and frame of Raphael’s Coronation, painted for the Perugian church of San Francesco al Prato and now in the Vatican. On 18 December 1512, Perugino was commissioned to paint the altarpiece; he, too, was asked to take Raphael’s Coronation as his model. His fee was 100 florins and the work was to be completed within eight months. Two panels (each 31 x 78) from the predella survive, representing the Adoration of the Shepherds (similar to an earlier predella panel at Chicago) and the Annunciation. The altarpiece was restored in 1838 by the prolific local restorer and copyist Giuseppe Carattoli.
Cremona. Sant’Agostino (6th altar on south side)
*Madonna enthroned with Two Saints. Wood, 170 x 160.
The apostle on the left, holding a quill and book, is traditionally identified as James but seems more likely to be John the Evangelist. The bishop on the right, wearing a monk's black habit under his cope, is Augustine, the church's titular saint. The picture is signed and dated 1494 on the plinth of the Virgin's throne. It was commissioned in 1493 by Eliseo Roncadelli, who had served as a captain in the army of Galeazzo Maria Sforza. The Roncadelli family altar was originally located to the right of the entrance, but had been moved by the early sixteenth century to the left of the nave. Apart from the two saints, the picture is a near replica of the San Domenico Altarpiece of 1493 in the Uffizi. It could have been painted on the way to Venice, where Perugino is recorded in 1494 and 1495. Taken to Paris as Napoleonic booty in 1796. When returned to the church in 1818, it was not returned to its previous position (which was subject to damp) but installed over an altar on the right of the nave. A restoration in 1999 was criticised for making the green of the Virgin's mantle too bright.
Deruta (19 km from Perugia). Pinacoteca.
The Eternal Father with Saints Roch and Romanus. Detached fresco, 188 x 127.
The two saints, invoked as protectors against the plague, stand above an idealised representation of Deruta. (The city gates, the Gothic campanile of San Francesco and the church of Santa Maria dei Consoli are all recognisable.) The fragmentary inscription gives the date 'MCCCCLXXV[ ]', but the final letter or letters is/are missing. It is probably that the fresco was commissioned after an outbreak of plague in December 1476. The fresco is from the local church of San Francesco (first altar on the left), where it was discovered by Crowe and Cavalcaselle behind a modern canvas and attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. The recent alternative attribution to the young Perugino (either just the head of St Romanus or the whole fresco) is based largely on stylistic affinities with the fresco (signed and dated 1478) of Saint Sebastian at Cerqueto. Detached in 1953 and transferred to the local museum. Restored in the late 1990s.
Detroit. Institute of Arts.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 81 x 65.
This panel probably dates from the late 1490s or early 1500s. The pose of the Child, turning to look over his shoulder, and the Virgin’s protective gesture with her left hand are repeated in other Madonnas by Perugino, including one in Washington. First recorded in 1784 in the collection of Francesco Baglioni of Perugia, it was bought in Florence by King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1831, and was acquired by the State of Bavaria in 1850 for the Munich Gallery (where it was rather harshly described by Giovanni Morelli as ‘feeble and overcleaned’ and by Crowe and Cavalcaselle as ‘not a good production of the master’). It was sold by the Munich Gallery in 1925 and, after passing through the hands of Duveen and J. D. Rockerfeller, was bought by Edsel Ford (son of Henry) in 1932. Bequeathed to the Detroit Institute by his widow, Eleanor Clay Ford, in 1976.
Two Miracles of St Nicholas of Tolentino. Wood, each 29/27 x 54/52.
These two little paintings clearly belonged to a predella – possibly that to the Capra Altarpiece, now at Bordeaux, which was painted by Perugino (and his workshop) for a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas of Tolentino in the church of Sant'Agostino at Perugia. The panels do not appear to have been painted by Perugino himself, and are now classed by the Detroit Institute as from his circle. One panel (depicting the saint restoring two birds to life) was bought by the Institute in 1925 from the dealer Contini Bonacossi. The other panel (depicting the saint saving a boy from drowning) was formerly in the collection of Alphonse Kann at Paris, and was given to the Institute in 1927 by the Michigan newspaper publisher Ralph Harmon Booth. The panels were previously supposed to have come from the predella of Raphael's youthful Coronation of St Nicholas of Tolentino (fragments of which are preserved at Naples, Brescia and in the Louvre).
Dublin. National Gallery of Ireland.
Pietà. Wood, 170 x 172.
This much restored picture, signed on Christ’s elbow, is a near replica of the altarpiece painted in about 1493-96 for the convent of the Gesuati and now in the Uffizi. (The figures are very similar, and were perhaps based on the same cartoons, but more landscape is visible through the central arch.) The panel formerly bore the coats-of-arms of the sixteenth-century French nobleman Claude Gouffier and his wife Jacqueline de la Tremoille, and it is assumed that the picture served as the altarpiece of the church (Saint-Maurice) on the Gouffier's estate at Oiron in western France. It may have been vandalised when Huguenots besieged the Château d'Oiron in 1568-69. The heads of the Virgin Mary, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene have all been badly scratched. In the eighteenth century, the picture was in the great collection of the Duc d'Orléans. It was sold with the Orléans collection in London in 1798 and purchased by Sir Christopher Sykes. It remained with Sykes's descendants until 1931, when it was acquired by the Dublin Gallery at a Christie’s auction. As well as the damage to the four heads, the picture has suffered numerous paint losses and parts, including the sky, are badly abraded. It was restored in 1936 (when the coats-of-arms were unfortunately removed) and again in 1969-70. A restoration in 2014-15, removing old varnish and repaint, has greatly improved the picture's appearance.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Four Nude Figures. Canvas, 73 x 56.
A fragment from the lower left-hand corner of a composition that was probably four or five times as large. The figure with the lyre on the left could be Apollo. Acquired in Florence by Sir Thomas Gibson, a Scottish Liberal politician, from the famous dealer Stefano Bardini. It was bought in 1902 by Frederick Anthony White, a wealthy London cement manufacturer, and remained in his collection at 170 Queen's Gate (now part of Imperial College) until his death in 1933. Acquired by the National Art Collections Fund at Christie's in 1934.
Fano. Santa Maria Nuova.
Third altar on right.
*Virgin and Child with Saints. Wood, 262 x 215.
On the left, St John the Baptist (pointing to the Christ Child), St Louis of Toulouse (a youthful bishop) and St Francis (reading); on the right, St Peter (with the Keys to Heaven), St Paul (bearded in the background) and Mary Magdalene (with her jar of ointment and a lily). In the lunette, the dead Christ is supported by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, with the Virgin on the left and John the Evangelist on the right. Commissioned by the Franciscans of Santa Maria Nuova on 21 April 1488, but completed nine years later. The step of the throne is inscribed with the name of the patron (‘Matteo de Martinotiis’) and the date 1497.
The predella with scenes from the Life of the Virgin (Birth, Marriage, Annunciation, Presentation in the Temple and Assumption) has sometimes been ascribed, at least in part, to the adolescent Raphael (whose father, Giovanni Santi, painted a Visitation for the church). A technical examination carried out in 2009 concluded that the predella was a work of collaboration, with three different hands involved in its execution. Raphael largely repeated the compositions of the Presentation in the Temple and Annunciation for the predella of his Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece (painted around 1502-3 for the church of San Francesco in Perugia and now in the Vatican Pinacoteca).
The main panel and lunette were taken to Florence in late 2020 for restoration and treatment for woodworm.
Second altar on left.
*Annunciation. Wood, 212 x 172.
The scene is set in a portico. A landscape of green hills and distant blue mountains is viewed through the columns. God the Father, appearing in a circle of angels' heads, releases the dove of the Holy Spirit. The date, in the damaged inscription on the desk before the Virgin, has been read either as 1489 or 1498, but the earlier dating is now usually preferred. The picture surface has been damaged somewhat by abrasive cleaning, and there are noticeable paint losses along the vertical joins in the panel (one running down the centre of the picture). The last major restoration was in 1953, when the wooden support was straightened and areas affected by flaking were retouched in watercolour.
*Madonna and Child with Two Saints. Wood, 178 x 164.
The Virgin is enthroned beneath a vaulted arch between SS. Sebastian and John the Baptist. Painted for the chapel of Cornelia di Giovanni Martini Salviati (now the Guadagni Chapel) in the church of San Domenico di Fiesole. The picture is signed and dated 1493, but may have been commissioned as early as 1488 when the chapel was built. It was bought from the church for 1500 crowns by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo in 1786, and replaced by a Baptism by Lorenzo di Credi. The composition is repeated (with different saints) in pictures at Vienna (also dated 1493) and Cremona (dated 1494). Vasari says that Perugino won great praise for his figure of St Sebastian, which is repeated in paintings of the saint in Paris, St Petersburg and São Paolo. There is a delicate study for the head of the Virgin (metalpoint on peach-pink paper) at Windsor and a study for the figure of St Sebastian (drawn from a completely nude live model) at Cleveland.
*Pietà. Wood, 168 x 176.
The dead Christ lies horizontally across the Virgin's lap; his upper body is supported by John the Evangelist and his legs are across the Magdalen's knees. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea stand at the sides. Painted in about 1493-96 for the Gesuati friars of San Giusto alle Mura, which was just outside the Porta a Pinti, a northern gate to Florence. Vasari says that the prior was very skilled at making ultramarine blues, and the Pietà is notable for its lavish use of this costly pigment. The monastery, which had two cloisters frescoed by Perugino, was demolished in 1529 as the imperial forces under the Prince of Orange advanced upon the city. The Pietà and the Agony in the Garden (also in the Uffizi) were taken to San Giovannino della Calza, near the Porta Romana. The Pietà was bought by Grand Duchess Maria Maddalena of Austria, consort of Cosimo II, for her chapel at Poggio Imperiale. It was transferred to the Pitti; taken to Paris in 1812; returned in 1814; moved to the Accademia in 1831; and transferred to the Uffizi in 1919. Restored in 1998. There is another version (similar in size and composition but rather damaged) at Dublin.
*Agony in the Garden. Wood, 166 x 171.
The representation of the subject draws on all four Gospel accounts. The angel, who appears to Christ 'from heaven, strengthening him', is mentioned only in Luke (22: 43). The three sleeping Apostles – Peter, James and John – are named in Matthew (26: 37) and Mark (14: 33). The 'lanterns and torches' held by the High Priest's men are mentioned in John (18: 3). The chalice held by the angel is an allusion to Christ's words: 'O my father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done' (Matthew 26: 42). According to Vasari, this panel and the Pietà hung over two altars of the rood-screen of the church of the Gesuati convent. It was taken from the Calza convent to the Accademia in the nineteenth century, and transferred to the Uffizi in 1919.
*Crucifixion and Saints. Wood, 203 x 180.
Vasari describes the picture clearly in his Life of Perugino (‘a Crucifixion with the Magdalen and, at the foot of the cross, St Jerome, St John the Baptist, and the Blessed Giovanni Colombini’), praising the ‘infinite care’ with which it was painted and stating that it originally hung over the door of the Gesuati convent. However, the style is a puzzling mixture of Perugino and Signorelli, and the picture has sometimes been considered a work of collaboration between the two artists. It seems earlier than Perugino’s other two pictures from San Giusto in the Uffizi, and may date from the late 1470s or early 1480s (either shortly before or after Perugino’s visit to Rome). It was taken to San Giovannino della Calza after the convent was destroyed in 1529, and transferred from there to the Uffizi in 1905.
*Portrait of Francesco delle Opere. Wood, 51 x 43.
The scroll bears the motto ‘TIMETE DEUM’ (‘Fear God’) from the Book of Revelation. Francesco di Lorenzo di Piero delle Opere was a Florentine painter born in 1458, a brother of Giovanni delle Corniole who was a famous engraver of gems. He died in Venice in 1496. This superb, exceptionally well-preserved portrait was ascribed to Raphael when it was in the collection of Leopoldo de’ Medici. By the early nineteenth century it was attributed to Perugino. It hung for some time in the gallery of self-portraits in the Uffizi, until the archivist Gaetano Milanesi deciphered an inscription ('1494 di luglo/Pietro perugino pinse franc de lopere') incised into the back. In 1494 Perugino visited Venice, where the portrait may have been painted. A strong Flemish influence has often been noted – the insistent realism, three-quarters pose, full landscape background and smooth, blended brushwork all recalling the portraits of Hans Memling.
*Portraits of the Abbate Baldassare and Don Biagio Milanesi. Wood, 28 x 26.
Two companion profile portraits; both looking up; one turned to the right and the other to the left. They were the outer predella panels of the Assumption (now in the Accademia) painted by Perugino for the church of the Abbey of Vallombrosa in 1498-1500. The rest of the predella, including the centre panel showing the Conversion of St John Gualbertus, is lost.
*Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 37 x 26.
An inscription (now almost illegible) on the back of the panel gives the name of the youthful sitter as Alessandro Braccesi – a Florentine intellectual, poet and diplomat, who, as secretary to the Signoria in 1497, was chosen to negotiate with Alexander VI for the return of Pisa to Florence. However, Braccesi, who was born in 1445, would have been in his forties or fifties when the portrait was painted (mid-1490s?). The portrait, which was transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1800, was traditionally ascribed to Lorenzo di Credi. The attribution to Perugino was made in Giovanni Morelli's Italian Painters (1890), and has rarely been questioned since. Restored in 1998 (previously the picture had a more olive tone). There is a copy in the Borghese Gallery, Rome.
*Self-Portrait (?). Wood, 52 x 37.
First recorded in an Uffizi inventory of 1681, and catalogued until the late eighteenth century as a portrait of Martin Luther by Holbein. The rotund sitter with a skullcap was later supposed to be Andrea Verrocchio (on the strength of an alleged resemblance to the engraving in Vasari’s Lives) and the artist was thought to be his favourite pupil Lorenzo di Credi (who painted Verrocchio’s portrait according to Vasari). His identification as Perugino is based on a rather strong resemblance to the artist’s self-portrait in the frescoes in the Cambio at Perugia. While this identification has been quite often accepted, there has been little agreement about the attribution of the portrait and its date.
The old attribution to Credi (who is said to have painted a portrait of Perugino as well as Verrocchio), continued to have supporters (eg. Berenson in his 1909-63 Lists), and was retained in the 1980 Uffizi catalogue. As a self-portrait – an attribution advanced in 1922 (by Venturi) – the picture has been dated as early as about 1480 (when Perugino was only around thirty years old) and as late as about 1500 (when he was around fifty). A theory (published by Richard Offner in 1934) that the picture is a portrait of Perugino painted by his young pupil Raphael in the early 1500s had some success for a time but has been rejected or ignored by almost all recent critics. Like the Francesco delle Opera, the portrait shows Flemish influence. (Memling’s Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, has an almost identical three-quarters pose with crossed hands and a similar interior setting with a window vista on the left.)
The portrait was given to Raphael in the 2008 exhibition Firenze e Gli Antichi Paesi Bassi at the Pitti Palace and included as a Perugino self-portrait of about 1495-97 in the 2023 exhibition Il Meglio Maestro d'Italia: Perugino nel suo Tempo held at Perugia. Research leading up to the 2023 exhibition supports the identification of the painting as a self-portrait by suggesting that it was composed using the same cartoon as Perugino's self-portrait in the Cambio.
*Assumption. Wood, 415 x 246.
Painted for the high altar of the Romanesque church of the Abbey of Vallombrosa, which was dedicated to La Nostra Donna Assumpta. Beneath the Virgin (seated in a mandorla of cherubim and surrounded by angels) are four Vallombrosan saints: Bernardo degli Uberti, John Gualbertus (holding his crutch), Benedict and Michael. The altarpiece was commissioned by Don Biagio Milanesi, general of the Vallombrosan Order, on the 17 December 1497 and was to have been executed within five months at a total cost of 300 gold florins (including the frame and all expenses). However, the completion date was repeatedly postponed, and the picture was actually painted between August 1498 and July 1500. The altarpiece consisted originally of a rectangular panel crowned by a separate lunette; the two parts were joined together probably either in the eighteenth century, when the high altar was replaced and the Assumption transferred high up on the end wall of the apse, or in Napoleonic times, when the monastery was secularised and the Assumption was transported to France. The elaborate wooden frame (carved by Jacopo di Jacopo Giovanni) is lost, as is the predella, apart from two profile portraits in the Uffizi.
Deposition. Wood, 334 x 225.
Vasari tells how Filippino Lippi courteously surrendered to Leonardo da Vinci a commission from the brothers of Santissima Annunziata for a double-sided high altarpiece. When, however, Leonardo left for France, the Servites again called upon Filippino. On his death in April 1504, only the upper part of the Deposition was painted. On 5 August 1505 Perugino took over the commission for 150 florins. He finished the Deposition, painted the Assumption (which is still in the church) for the back of the altarpiece, and painted six panels of saints for the sides and ends (now dispersed among museums in Altenburg, New York and Rome and a private collection). The work was completed by 4 November 1507, when Perugino’s paintings were evaluated. The altarpiece was the largest of the Florentine Renaissance. The magnificent frame (now destroyed) was carved by Baccio d’Agnolo and gilded by Francesco di Nicolò. It cost 390 florins – nearly double the 200 florins paid to Lippi and Perugino for the paintings.
Crucifixion with the Virgin and St Jerome. Wood, 210 x 168.
The figures of Christ on the cross and the standing Virgin repeat those in the fresco of 1493-96 at Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi. In the background, a view of the towers and spires of Florence. From the high altar of San Girolamo delle Poverine in Florence. When the convent was suppressed in 1864, the picture was taken to the Accademia. In 1922 it was transferred to the Sala del Capitolo of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi, where it remained (largely inaccessible to the public) for sixty years.
Visitation. Wood, 32 x 34.
St Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist, embraces her younger cousin, the Virgin Mary. St Anne is on the left. In the background are tiny scenes of St Francis receiving the stigmata and the young John the Baptist departing for the wilderness. This small panel came to the Accademia in 1861 from the Dominican convent of the Crocetta. The convent (founded in 1509) cannot have been the original location, and the presence of St Francis points to a Franciscan patron. The first published attribution (1899) was to Jacopo del Sellaio. More recent opinion has been divided over whether the panel, which is very Verrocchiesque, is the work of the young Perugino (as apparently first proposed by Federico Zeri at a conference in 1959) or the young Ghirlandaio (as accepted, for example, by Jean Cadogan in her 2000 monograph on the painter). The Accademia has favoured the Perugino attribution.
*Entombment. Wood, 214 x 195.
The mourners include Joseph of Arimathea (supporting Christ under his arms), Mary Magdalene (holding his head), the Virgin (holding his left arm), Mary Cleophas and Mary Salome (standing with hands raised and kneeling in prayer), Nicodemus (holding the winding sheet at Christ's feet) and John the Evangelist (standing at the right edge). Painted in Florence in 1495 (the date is in gold letters on the stone on which Christ’s body rests) for the church of the Franciscan convent of Santa Chiara in Via dei Serragli. The church – today the Galleria Pio Fedi – was rebuilt in the 1490s by a wool merchant and Savonarolan devotee called Jacopo Bongianni, who had two sisters and a niece at the convent. Perugino's altarpiece was on the right-hand side of the nave, opposite Lorenzo di Credi's Adoration of the Shepherds (now in the Uffizi). Both altarpieces were surmounted by ceramic lunettes by Andrea della Robbia. (These lunettes, representing the Resurrection and the Assumption, are now installed over doorways in the loggia of the Accademia.) Vasari recounts that the rich merchant Francesco del Pugliese offered the nuns three times the price they had paid for Perugino's picture to exchange it for a replica painted by Perugino himself. The offer was rejected, Vasari says, because Perugino told them that he did not think he could equal the original. The picture was taken to Paris by Napoleon in 1799, placed in the Accademia on its return in 1814, and transferred thence to the Pitti Palace in 1834. The composition clearly influenced the Entombments by Fra Bartolommeo and Andrea del Sarto (both also in the Pitti). A beautiful black chalk cartoon for the head of Joseph of Arimathea, squared and pricked for transfer, is preserved at Christ Church, Oxford.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John and an Angel. Wood, 88 x 86.
The large sack on which the Christ Child sits suggests the flight into Egypt. The picture is an autograph variant of the Madonna in the central panel of the Certosa Altarpiece, now in London. The variant is square rather than vertical, the little St John has been added on the right and three angels have been omitted from the sky overhead. The London panel was executed in or shortly after 1499, and the Pitti version probably dates from around the same time. Though often stated to have come to the Pitti Palace in 1675 with the legacy of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, it was already in the Medici collections by 1635 (when it is recorded hanging in the Tribuna of the Uffizi). The composition is repeated again in a tondo, ascribed to Perugino’s workshop or a follower, in the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna.
The Magdalen. Wood, 47 x 34.
The saint has none of her usual attributes but is identified by an inscription on her dress. The picture, which is like an idealized portrait but was presumably intended for private devotion, probably dates from the late 1490s. It came from the Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale (where it is recorded in 1641). There were old attributions to Raphael (1691), Franciabigio (1797), Giacomo Francia (1810) and (to judge from an old inscription on the back) Leonardo da Vinci.
Madonna and Child with Two Female Saints. Wood, 77 x 61.
A replica, probably by Perugino’s Florentine workshop, of the signed picture at Vienna. First recorded in 1806, when it was transferred (as a work of Perugino’s school) from the Vasari Corridor to the Pitti Palace.
Florence. Santissima Annunziata. Fourth altar, left.
Assumption. Wood, 333 x 218.
Painted in 1505-7 for the double-sided high altarpiece of the church. It was the main panel on the back, facing the choir. Vasari says that the Servites originally intended the Assumption to face the nave, but decided the finished picture was not worthy to place on the front. But this appears untrue, as it is clear from the contract that the monks always wanted the Deposition (begun by Filippino Lippi), now in the Accademia, for the front. Vasari also says that Perugino was criticised by other artists and lambasted in sonnets for using the same figures over and over again. Most of the Apostles derive from the Lyon Ascension of 1496-98, Perugino perhaps reusing his old cartoons. As early as 1546, the two main panels of the altarpiece were relegated to side altars and replaced by a wooden ciborium. The six side and end panels of saints, which were sold by the Servite monks around 1650, are scattered: two are in Altenberg, two in New York (Metropolitan Museum), one in Rome (Galleria Nazionale) and one in a private collection.
Florence. Cenacolo di Fuligno. Former Monastery of Sant'Onofrio in Via Faenza.
*Last Supper. Fresco, 435 x 794.
The huge lunette-shaped fresco fills almost the entire end wall of the refectory of the former Franciscan nunnery. Christ, in the centre, and the Twelve Apostles are seated around a U-shaped table. Judas, as usual on the near side of the table, turns furtively towards the spectator, clutching the purse with the thirty pieces of silver. In the landscape, viewed between the background columns, the angel appears to Christ on the Mount of Olives. The semi-circular fictive stone frame contains roundels with the heads of Franciscan saints.
The monastery, which derives its name from its motherhouse of Sant''Anna in Foligno, was suppressed in Napoleonic times and the refectory turned into a coach house. Structural alterations in the 1840s led to the discovery of the Last Supper under whitewash. Located in the refectory of a closed order, the fresco is not recorded in early sources. It was attributed to Perugino at first; but an inscription, read as RA…UR… ANNO MDV., on the collar of St Thomas, combined with the fact that the sister of Taddeo Taddei, with whom Raphael lodged at Florence, was a nun at the convent, led in 1845 to an attribution to Raphael. The fresco is now regarded as a work of Perugino and his studio. It has been dated about 1485-93. The assistants principally involved have not been firmly identified, but the most likely candidates are perhaps Lo Spagna (who was associated with Perugino’s Florentine studio by 1492) and Giannicola di Paolo (who painted a similar Last Supper in 1493-96 for the Palazzo dei Priori at Perugia). The names of Gerino da Pistoia, Eusebio da San Giorgio, Rocco Zoppo and Roberto da Montevarchi have also been suggested by different critics.
The Cenacolo di Fuligno is accessible to the public, but opening times are limited and tend to vary.
Florence. Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi.
**Crucifixion and Saints. Fresco, 480 x 812.
One of Perugino’s indisputable masterpieces. An illusionary loggia of three arched compartments is created across the whole wall of the chapter house of the former Cistercian convent. In the central compartment is the Crucifixion, the Magdalen kneeling at the foot of the cross; in the left-hand one are figures of the Virgin and St Bernard; and in the right-hand one St John the Evangelist and St Benedict. The fresco was ordered by Dionisio Pucci and his wife Mona Giovanna on 20 November 1493 and was to be finished by 20 April 1496. The fee was 55 ducats. The fresco narrowly escaped damage in 1966, when the flood water came within four inches of the scene.
The detached fresco of the Crucified Christ appearing to St Bernard (246 x 142) is also described by Vasari in his Life of Perugino, but is now attributed to Perugino’s Florentine workshop or to Raffaellino del Garbo..
The chapter house, which had been closed for some years for restoration, reopened in February 2011. It can be visited on selected days via the neighbouring school (Liceo Classico Michelangiolo, Via della Colonna, 9/11).
Florence. Santa Croce.
Saint Anthony of Padua. Wood, 153 x 98.
Late (about 1515), and perhaps partly by an assistant. (The picture, which formerly hung in the Medici Chapel, is now kept in a part of the convent inaccessible to the public.)
Florence. Santo Spirito. Façade.
Pentecost. Stained glass window.
The design of the large stained-glass oculus was attributed to Perugino by Berenson (1909). The window was probably executed by Gesuati monks between 1490 and 1506.
Florence. Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio.
'Albizi Pietà'. Detached fresco, 132 x 137.
The dead Christ, seated on the sarcophagus, is supported from behind by Joseph of Arimathea, while the Virgin and John the Evangelist hold Christ's arms and wounded hands. The fresco was on the facade of the church of San Pier Scheraggio at Florence. It is mentioned by Vasari, who says it was located 'above the steps of the side door' and had remained perfectly preserved despite exposure to the elements. The church was demolished in 1784 (apart from the nave, which has been incorporated into the Uffizi Gallery). The detached fresco was acquired by the Marchese Lorenzo degli Albizi, who hung it in his palazzo on Borgo degli Albizi. It was sold in 1883 for 18,000 lire and passed through private collections in Germany and Holland. It was lost for a time, but resurfaced to be sold at Sotheby's, London, in 1990. Bought by the Cassa di Risparmio for $5.58 million. The bank's art collection, housed at 6 Via Bufalini, can sometimes be viewed by appointment. There is a studio replica (about half-size and on panel) at the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. A copy at Yale is comparatively modern (nineteenth century?).
Foligno. Oratorio della Nunziatella.
Baptism of Christ. Fresco, 445 x 228.
The oratory (remodelled in 1830) was built in 1494 to house a venerated image of the Annunciation that had been painted by an unknown artist on the façade of a house. The venerated image (or rather half of it, since the figure of the angel is now lost) is displayed in a gilded wooden tabernacle on the left side of the back wall. Perugino's fresco is painted over the altar on the right side of the back wall. The main scene shows St John baptising Christ in the River Jordan. Four angels stand or kneel on the banks of the river, and two more angels (clearly executed by reversing a single cartoon) hover overhead. The lunette above shows the Eternal Father, blessing and holding a globe, between two kneeling angels (also doubtless executed from a single cartoon). An inscription, now partly effaced, on the border beneath the lunette identifies the patron as Giovanni Battista Morganti and gives the date of the fresco (1507?). The Morganti coat-of-arms (two swans) is emblazoned on the stone frame.
Fontignano (21 km from Perugia). Church (Oratory of the Annunziata).
Madonna and Child. Fresco, 135 x 68.
This abraded fresco is a virtual replica of the Virgin and Child in the fresco, dated 25 April 1521, at Spello. The name of the patron (‘Angniolus Toni Angeli’) and the date 1522 are inscribed on the base of the Virgin’s throne. As Perugino died at Fontignano in February 1523 (his tomb is in the church), his frescoes there are thought to be his last works. Three other frescoes were removed from the walls of the church in 1843. One of these, a Nativity from the chancel arch, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The other two, a St Roch and a St Sebastian from the sides of the arch, are lost.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 67 x 51.
This small devotional panel was once in the collection of the Bavarian royal family (whose seal is on the back). Acquired by the Institute in 1832. The pose of the Madonna appears in reverse in versions with two saints at Paris, Vienna and Florence (Pitti). The panel probably dates from the 1490s.
Grenoble. Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture.
St Sebastian and a Female Saint. Wood, 189 x 95.
St Sebastian is unmistakable as a young, rather effeminate male nude bound to a tree. The female saint holds a book but has no other identifying attributes. She has been called either Irene of Rome (who nursed Sebastian after he had been shot with arrows) or Apollonia. One of four large side panels, each showing two saints, from the lower tier of the Sant’Agostino Altarpiece (commissioned in 1502 but still unfinished at Perugino’s death in 1523). The others are Jerome and Mary Magdalene (in the gallery at Perugia), James the Less and Herculanus (Lyon) and Augustine and John the Evangelist (Toulouse). The Grenoble panel was on the back, to the left of the Adoration of the Shepherds. Most of the altarpiece is in the gallery at Perugia.
Saint Peter. Wood, 66 x 48.
Half-figure, with a huge key and a book, under a garland of leaves, fruit and flowers. Once ascribed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo; now attributed to a Perugino as a very early work, painted under Verrocchio’s influence. The head of the saint is closely similar to the heads of St Jerome in two pictures – a Pietà with SS. Jerome and Mary Magdalene and a detached fresco of St Jerome in the Desert – attributed to the young Perugino in the gallery at Perugia. From the collection of the German diplomat August Kestner, formed in Italy in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Hanover (New Hampshire). Hood Museum of Art.
Madonna and Child and Saints. Wood, 176 x 171.
The saints are Anthony Abbot (leaning on his Tau-shaped staff), James the Great (with pilgrim's staff), Francis (with cross and book) and Bruno of Cologne (reading). The picture, clearly intended as an altarpiece, was probably produced around 1500 in Perugino's workshop from his designs. It was among the enormous collection of some three thousand paintings sold by the English timber merchant Edward Solly to the King of Prussia in 1821. In the early twentieth century it was on loan to the Provinzialmuseum at Hanover (Germany) and during the 1930s it was on loan to the German Embassy in Rome. It was seized by the Allies after the War and sold. After passing through several private collections in Italy and the United States, it was auctioned at Sotheby's, New York, in 1999 and acquired by the Hood Museum. The execution has been variously ascribed to Tiberio d'Assisi (Crowe and Cavalcaselle), to Giannicola di Paolo (Filippo Todini in La Pittura Umbra (1989)) and to a collaboration between Perugino himself and one or more assistants. The best part of the picture is perhaps the figure of St Anthony Abbot (far left).
Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery.
Birth of the Virgin. Wood, 19 x 41.
The Virgin's mother, St Anne, lies in her bed, while a midwife and nurse wash and dry the baby. On the left, three women visit the new mother. According to an inscription on the back, this predella panel came from the Casa Pucci at Florence. It was acquired in Italy by the Irish dealer Henry Tresham in 1786-87 on behalf of John Campbell, the future Lord Cawdor. It was bought by William Roscoe at Christie's in 1804 for 9 gns as a work of Masaccio. Roscoe – a Liverpudlian merchant, philanthropist and pioneering collector of Italian 'primitives' – re-attributed the panel to Fra Angelico. Berenson first proposed Fiorenzo di Lorenzo as the artist, but later, in 1932, gave the picture to the young Perugino. This attribution is now generally accepted. A companion predella panel, representing the Miracle of the Founding of Santa Maria Maggiore, was also in the 1804 Christie’s sale and is now at Polesden Lacey. The predella, which would have contained at least one other panel, probably belonged to an altarpiece produced in Verrocchio's workshop around the early or mid-1470s. A theory associating the Liverpool panel with the predella of the Verrocchio workshop altarpiece at Pistoia ('Madonna di Piazza') was widely accepted for a time but is clearly wrong. The Pucci provenance suggests that the predella could have come from an altarpiece commissioned for the church of Santissima Annunziata, which had several chapels endowed by members of that family.
London. National Gallery.
*Triptych. Wood, centre panel 127 x 64 and side panels 126 x 58.
The left-hand panel depicts the Archangel Michael, who wears a contemporary suit of black plate armour and stands in an heroic pose evidently taken from Donatello's famous Saint George. The archangel's scales for weighing souls hang from a tree stump. In the centre panel, the Virgin adores the Child, who is supported by an angel, while three other angels hover overhead singing from scrolls of music. The right-hand panel shows the Archangel Raphael with Tobias. A meticulously painted silver fish hangs from Tobias's wrist, while the archangel holds a small box containing the fish gall that cured Tobias's father's blindness. The three panels formed the lower part of an altarpiece painted for the Certosa di Pavia, the great Carthusian monastery patronised by Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Milan. The altarpiece was commissioned before October 1496 but was still unfinished in May 1499, when Lodovico threatened to withdraw the money advanced to Perugino. Perugino painted only one of the three panels for the upper tier – an Eternal Father which is still in situ – and the remaining two (now in Geneva), representing the Annunciation, were executed by Mariotto Albertinelli in 1511. The London panels are painted with extraordinary care. They have been cut at the bottom, removing most of the devil beneath St Michael’s feet and the body of Tobias’s dog. Their original appearance is preserved in the copies that remain in the Certosa. The three panels were removed from the Certosa in 1782, when the Carthusian monastery was suppressed. They were purchased in 1786 by Count Giacomo Melzi of Milan, whose great-great nephew, Duke Lodovico Melzi, sold them to the National Gallery in 1856 for the huge price of 3400 guineas. There are careful metalpoint drawings for the Tobias and the Angel at Oxford (Ashmolean) and for Saint Michael at Windsor.
Virgin and Child and Two Saints ('Madonna di Loreto'). Wood, 186 x 153.
On 8 June 1507, the executors of Giovanni Schiavone, a master carpenter of Perugia, commissioned from Perugino a Virgin and Child, with St Jerome in cardinal’s dress and St Francis, for 47 florins. The contract specified that the image of the Virgin standing with the Child should be similar to the 'Madonna di Loreto' – a venerated fourteenth-century carved wooden sculpture at the holy shrine. The picture was intended for Schiavone’s chapel in Santa Maria dei Servi, but was moved to Santa Maria Nuova in 1542 when the church was demolished. In 1821 it was removed from its chapel by its owner, Baron Fabrizio della Penna, to his palazzo in Perugia and replaced by a copy. (The copy, made by the local painter Giuseppe Carattoli, is still in the church.) Purchased by the National Gallery in 1879 for £3200. Although the contract stipulated that the picture should be completed within four months and should be entirely by Perugino’s own hand, some critics think it is later than 1507 and was executed partly (or largely) by an assistant. In any event, it was evidently executed in some haste, using low cost materials (no ultramarine occurs). The two flying angels were probably taken from the same cartoon (reversed). The original frame is in the gallery at Perugia. In 2010, the picture was placed on long-term loan with the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Christ crowned with Thorns. Wood, 40 x 32.
A bust-length devotional image of Christ – crowned with thorns, wearing a purple robe as 'King of the Jews' and with the rope around his neck with which he was led by Pilate before the hostile crowd. Bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1862 as a work of Lo Spagna. It retained this attribution until 2009, when, following restoration, it was reattributed to Perugino as a mature work of about 1500-5. Some doubt about the authorship remains, and the National Gallery currently catalogues the painting as 'probably by Perugino'.
Virgin and Child with St John. Wood, 69 x 45.
Purchased by the National Gallery in 1841 from William Beckford of Bath for the high price of £800. John Ruskin, in 1847, described the attribution to Perugino as 'mere insult', but it was accepted by most subsequent critics. The panel was cleaned and restored in 1977, when false corners were detached to reveal the original arched top and a false signature (with the unusual spelling 'Petrus Peruginus') was removed from the hem of the Virgin's mantle. The National Gallery continued to attribute the picture to Perugino until fairly recently, but now classes it as the work of 'a close associate and imitator'. The panel was included as an autograph Perugino, with a dating of 1487-90, in the major loan exhibition held in Perugia in 2023 to mark the 500th anniversary of the painter's death. It is painted in egg tempera, whereas Perugino almost always used oil.
London. British Library.
Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Miniature on parchment, 20 x 15.
Perugino's only known manuscript illumination, exquisitely executed in watercolour and ink on parchment. The colours are beautifully preserved. Signed in gold letters along the bottom. A page from the Hours of Bonaparte Ghislieri, also known as the Albani Missal because it belonged to Cardinal Giovanni Girolamo Albani in the sixteenth century. The book also included miniatures by Amico Aspertini of Bologna, Matteo da Milano and other artists. Sold by the cardinal’s descendents in 1809, it was bought in about 1838 from a shop in Rome for just 22 scudi (about £5) by James Dennistoun of Dennistoun. Dennistoun, who spent two days in the prison of the Castel Sant’Angelo on the charge of stealing the book from the Vatican Library, smuggled it to England disguised as his bank passbook and sold it to the Earl of Ashburnham for £750. In the late 1890s, it was acquired by Sir Henry Yates Thompson, a newspaper proprietor and the leading British collector of illuminated manuscripts of his day. It was bequeathed to the British Museum by his widow in 1941. Perugino’s miniature, now detached from the rest of the book, probably dates from about 1500.
London. Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Nativity. Fresco (transferred to canvas), 255 x 600.
The fresco, now much damaged and repainted, was over the arch separating the nave and cancel of the Oratory of the Confraternity of the Annunziata (Santa Maria Assunta) at Fontignano. Another fresco by Perugino is still in the church and dated 1522. As Perugino died at Fontignano in February 1523, the frescoes are assumed to be his last works. Having been whitewashed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Nativity was detached in 1843. It was purchased by the museum in 1862 from William Blundell Spence (an English dealer, painter and travel writer living in Florence). Until 1971 it was on loan to the National Gallery.
London. Hampton Court.
Saint Jerome. Canvas (laid onto panel), 87 x 59.
The picture, originally on canvas, may have been painted as a processional banner. It has probably been cut at the bottom and on the right. The whole of the kneeling saint may originally have been seen, and he may have been meditating on a crucifix (now lost). The picture was acquired in Florence for Queen Victoria by her 'adviser in art', the German engraver Ludwig Gruner, and given to Prince Albert on his twenty-seventh birthday (26 August 1846). It hung in the Prince's Writing Room at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The attribution has sometimes been doubted, but is accepted by Shearman (1987) who puts forward a comparatively early date of 1483-91 in his catalogue of the early Italian pictures in the Royal Collection. The picture currently hangs in the 'East Closet' at Hampton Court Palace.
Lyon. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
*The Ascension. Wood (transferred to canvas in 1845), 325 x 265.
The Ascension was the centre panel of a huge altarpiece painted for San Pietro at Perugia. It hung over the high altar, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, which housed the relics of St Catherine and the body of St Peter Abbot. Vasari praised it as Perugino’s best work in the city. The altarpiece is exceptionally well documented. A contract to make the frame and wooden panels was awarded by the Benedictine monks on 26 August 1493 to Giovanni di Domenico, an Olivetan monk from Verona. Some eighteen months later, on 8 March 1495, Perugino was contracted as the painter. He received payments for his work between 18 January 1496 and 23 April 1498, and the finished altarpiece was consecrated on 13 January 1500. While Perugino followed the precise instructions of the Benedictine monks regarding the subject of the altarpiece, the composition of the Ascension seems to have been adapted from the much earlier fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin painted by Perugino in 1481-82 over the altar of the Sistine Chapel but later destroyed to make way for Michelangelo's Last Judgement.
The altarpiece was removed from its original position in 1567, when the high altar was dismantled in the wake of the Counter-Reformation, and split up by about 1591. The Ascension was one of ten panels taken to France in 1797. Most were distributed to French regional museums in the early nineteenth century. While some panels were returned to Italy after Napoleon’s defeat, the Ascension remained in Lyon, and in 1816 Pope Pius VII gave the city authorisation to keep it. The lunette of the altarpiece is also at Lyon, and there are other parts at Nantes (two tondi), Rouen (three predella panels), San Pietro and the Vatican (eight small panels of saints). Eusebio da San Giorgio and Giovanni di Francesco Ciambella acted as witnesses to the contract, and probably assisted in the execution of the altarpiece. There is a workshop replica of the Ascension at Sansepolcro, and some of the apostles are repeated in the Assumptions at Florence (SS. Annunziata), Corciano and Naples.
Detailed preparatory drawings, delicately drawn in metalpoint, survive for two Apostles' heads. One (for the Apostle on the far right) is in the British Museum. The other (for the Apostle third from the right) was sold at Christie's, New York, in January 2020 for $855,000 – a record price for a drawing by Perugino.
The Eternal Father and Cherubs. Wood, 130 x 260.
The lunette from the San Pietro Altarpiece. Formerly in the Parisian church of St Gervais, it was reunited with the Ascension in 1952.
St Herculanus and St James (the Less?). Wood, 173 x 91.
St Herculanus (Ercolano in Italian) was a sixth-century Bishop of Perugia and the city's patron saint. The Guelph lion on his flag is a symbol of the city. The other saint is usually identified as James the Less (whose attribute is a fuller's club), but he has sometimes been called James the Great (in which case the object would be a pilgrim's staff). A side panel from the huge, double-sided Sant’Agostino Altarpiece (commissioned in 1502 but still unfinished at Perugino's death in 1523). It flanked the Baptism of Christ (now in the Perugia Gallery) on the front lower tier.
Marseille. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Family of St Anne. Wood, 296 x 259.
The unusual subject represents St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, with her three daughters and their children. All the figures (excluding the Madonna and Child) are identified by the names on their haloes. St Anne stands behind the enthroned Virgin, with her hands on her shoulders. Simon Zelotes and Thaddeus (more commonly known as Jude) are the boys playing with each other on the steps of the throne. Mary Cleophas stands on the left with her sons James the Less (a babe in arms) and Joseph or Joses (holding a stick). The elderly Joseph, the Virgin's husband, stands behind them. Mary Salome is on the right with her sons John the Evangelist (in her arms) and James the Great. Joachim, St Anne's elderly husband, stands behind. The picture was the altarpiece of a chapel dedicated to St Anne in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Santa Maria fra Fossi) in Perugia. The chapel and altarpiece were bequeathed by Angelo di Tommaso Conti, whose will is dated 1492. By 8 December 1500, Perugino had executed the design for the picture and had been paid. The inscription on the pedestal of the Virgin’s throne originally included the date 1502. The picture was moved in 1789 to the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Misericordia. It was plundered by the French in 1797 and sent from Paris to Marseille in 1801. In poor condition, and sometimes ascribed partly to Perugino’s workshop.
Montefalco. San Francesco (now a museum).
Nativity. Fresco, 200 x 300.
Niche left of the entrance. The Nativity is a repetition of the fresco in the Cambio at Perugia, and the Eternal Father in the lunette may be from the same cartoon as the fresco in Foligno. Once regarded as a late work (about 1515), but more recently dated around 1503.
Montefortino. Pinacoteca Civica.
Dead Christ. Wood, 21 in dia.
This small roundel was probably the centre of a predella, which may also have included the mourning Virgin and St John the Evangelist at Raleigh (North Carolina). Thinly and sketchily painted, and very late (about 1520).
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
Madonna and Child. Canvas, 51 x 38.
One of a number of similar pictures from Perugino's late workshop. The best known version is in the Borghese Gallery, Rome. From the Stroganov Palace at Petrograd. Transferred to the Hermitage in 1922 and thence to the Pushkin Museum in 1930.
Pietà. Wood, 75 x 60.
A reduced replica, probably from Perugino's workshop, of a fresco painted for the church of San Pier Scheraggio at Florence. (The fresco, detached when the church was demolished, is now in the collection of the Cassa di Risparmio at Florence.) In the nineteenth century, the panel was in the collection of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, at the Villa di Quarto, near Florence. Transferred to the Pushkin Museum from the Hermitage in 1924.
Munich. Alte Pinakothek.
*The Virgin appearing to St Bernard. Wood, 173 x 170.
The Virgin, accompanied by two angels, appears in a vision to St Bernard, who is seated at his desk in a Renaissance loggia. St Bartholomew (with knife) and St Philip (with cross) stand behind him. Through the arch, there is a view of wooded hills descending to a river. This smallish square altarpiece, harmoniously composed around a central vanishing point, is one of Perugino’s best known panel pictures. It was painted for the chapel of the Nasi family in the Chiesa di Castello (now Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi) in Florence. The patrons were the brothers Bernardo and Filippo Nasi. (Bernardo, the more distinguished of the two, is said to have been Prior of Florence in 1478, ambassador to King Ferrante of Naples in 1480 and ambassador to Pope Alexander VI in 1497.) The chapel, dedicated to St Bernard, was inaugurated on 7 July 1489, and the altarpiece was presumably finished at this point.
When the Carmelite nuns took possession of the church in 1626, the Nasi chapel was rededicated to Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi, and a new altarpiece was commissioned from Francesco Curradi to be placed over her relics. Perugino's altarpiece was returned to Francesco di Lorenzo Nasi in 1635, after a legal dispute over its ownership. In his will of 1640, Nasi expressed the desire that the picture should be installed as the altarpiece of his family chapel in Santo Spirito. However, his sister and heiress, Ortensia Capponi, kept the picture for herself, offering the monks of Santo Spirito two hundred scudi and a copy as compensation. (The copy, by Felice Ficherelli, is still in the Nasi chapel at Santo Spirito.) Perugino's original was bought from the Capponi family in 1829 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Ten years later, in 1839, it was placed in the Alte Pinakothek.
Virgin adoring the Child. Wood, 203 x 158.
On the left, St John the Evangelist; on the right, St Augustine (or Nicholas). This well-preserved picture probably dates from about 1500. It is said to have come from Venice, and early in the nineteenth century it was in the collection of a Mr Henry of London and Paris. It was bought by Von Dillis in Paris in 1815 for 18,000 francs, and acquired by the Munich Gallery in 1836.
Nancy. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Madonna and Child with St John and Two Angels. Wood, 162 x 118.
The kneeling Virgin has her right hand on the shoulder of the infant St John the Baptist, who kneels in prayer before the Christ Child, seated on a blanket on the grass. The composition of the group appears to derive from Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks (or perhaps some other pyramidal composition by Leonardo). Two angels kneel in prayer at the sides. The figures are posed under a cloudless blue sky in a gentle landscape with feathery trees, a distant lake and blue hills. There are the remains of a signature beneath the figure of St John. The picture may date from the early 1500s. It has been cut down at the bottom and on both sides. Before the French Revolution it was in the collection of Jean Paul Timoléon de Cossé, Duc de Brissac, a general under Louis XV and a Marshal of France. It was seized during the Terror and sent to Nancy in 1803.
Nantes. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Two Prophets. Wood (transferred to canvas), each 127 in dia.
The Prophet facing right (formerly identified as Isaiah) is probably David. The Latin inscription on his scroll ('Your magnificence is elevated above the heavens') is from Psalm 8. The Prophet facing left (formerly called Jeremiah) is probably Isaiah. The inscription on his scroll (''Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstall') is from Isaiah 66: 1. These two large tondi were painted around 1496-98 for the San Pietro Altarpiece (the centre panel of which is the Ascension at Lyon). They were located in the upper corners, either side of the lunette of the Eternal Father (also now at Lyon).
Saints Anthony of Padua and Sebastian. Wood, 74 x 50.
The two saints are shown full-length against a gold background incised with a damask pattern. St Anthony, a barefooted Franciscan friar, holds a flame in one hand and book in the other. St Sebastian, extravagantly dressed in a voluminous green-lined cloak, fur-trimmed tunic and red hose, holds an arrow. His languid pose resembles that of Verrocchio's bronze David at the Bargello. A fragment from an altarpiece. Attributed to Perugino as an early work, close in style to the Adoration of the Magi in Perugia. Acquired by François Cacault, a minister of Napoleon, in Rome at the end of the eighteenth century; at Nantes since 1810.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 90 x 66.
In the background, small figures of the Magi and their entourage. First recorded in San Luigi dei Francesi, the French church in Rome, which was then being used by the Napoleonic administration as a store for confiscated works of art. It came to Naples in 1799 as a work of Raphael and was reattributed to Perugino in the early nineteenth century. Modern commentators have sometimes called it a studio work. Restored in 2014.
Assumption. Wood, 500 x 330.
Commissioned, probably around 1508, for the high altar of the cathedral. (Vasari mistakenly says it was painted for the Bishop’s Palace.) The donor, Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa, who built his burial chapel in the cathedral between 1497 and 1508, is represented kneeling to the left, recommended to the Virgin by St Januarius. Some of the apostles are repeated from the Ascension at Lyon, and much of the work was doubtless by Perugino’s workshop. The picture was moved from the high altar in 1744 to make way for the marble Assumption by Pietro Bracci. Previously displayed in the crypt (Cappella Caraffa), it now hangs over an altar in the right transept. The picture, which was subjected to astringent cleaning in the 1960s, was restored on site in 2004.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Resurrection. Wood, 27 x 46.
The composition repeats elements of the Vatican Resurrection and a predella panel at Rouen from the San Pietro Altarpiece. Once in the London collection of Alexander Barker with four other predella panels, which are now in the Chicago Art Institute. The predella was probably painted in Florence during the early years of the sixteenth century. The altarpiece to which it belonged has not been certainly identified. The Resurrection has a marked craquelure, but it is better preserved than the Chicago panels (which have been transferred to canvas). Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1911 from the art historian and dealer Robert Langton Douglas.
Saint John the Baptist; Saint Lucy. Wood, 160 x 67.
The Baptist 'points the way' and St Lucy holds a flaming lamp. The panels have been cut down slightly, removing the tops of the shell domes. They belonged to the large double-sided altarpiece painted for Santissima Annunziata and completed by 1507. They seem to have flanked the Deposition (now in the Accademia at Florence). After nearly a century in the collection of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen, they were purchased in 1961 by Mr and Mrs Jack Linsky, who donated them to the museum in 1981.
New York. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Madonna and Two Saints adoring the Child. Wood, 87 x 72.
Once known as the Three Maries, the figure kneeling on the left may be St John the Evangelist and that on the right Mary Magdalene (or St Sophronia). Usually dated around 1500. The picture is said to have been acquired by the Duke of Orléans from a nun in Perugia. By around 1830, it had entered the collection of the Sitwell family at Renishaw Hall in Yorksire. It was sold in 1911 by Sir George Sitwell (the English antiquarian, author, Conservative politician, and father of the writers Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell), who was then living at the Castello di Montegufoni, near Florence, to the art historian and dealer Robert Langton Douglas. Langton Douglas, who paid the considerable sum of £30,000 for the painting, initially offered it to the Metropolitan Museum, but then sold it to Pierpont Morgan. The frame (inscribed with a quotation from Psalms 45: 2) is later than the painting.
Panicale (30 km west of Perugia). San Sebastiano.
Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Fresco.
San Sebastiano, a modest brick building outside the town walls, was built at the end of the fifteenth century as a plague hospital. The fresco is on the interior back wall. It shows the saint standing stoically on a pedestal, tied to a column and surrounded by four archers. Two archers aim arrows at him, another strings a bow and the fourth loads a crossbow. In its use of archers seen from different angles, the composition recalls Pollaiuolo's famous Saint Sebastian of 1475 in the National Gallery, London. Through the arches of the ornamental arcade, there is a charming view of Lake Trasimene and the Val di Chiana. Spectators standing at the far left and right were painted a secco (ie. on dry plaster) and are now partly effaced. In the triangular pediment above, God the Father appears in glory, encircled by cherubs' heads and flanked by praying angels. Signed on the pedestal and dated 1505 on the column. Perugino only received his final payment of 11 florins in September 1507, after a lawsuit to recover the debt. The fresco was restored in 1985.
Three Predella Panels. 30 x 28/30.
One panel (presumably the centre of the predella) shows Christ in the Tomb. In the background are symbols of the Passion (spear, column, sponge, cross and ladder). The other two panels show Miracles of St Jerome: in one (damaged by the loss of a horizontal strip of paint towards the top) he raises to life Cardinal Andrea in the presence of the Pope and in the other he saves two young men who had been left to hang for eight days. From the huge Campana collection acquired by Napoleon III in 1861. In the 1862 catalogue, the three panels were ascribed to Pisanello. Later given to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, they were attributed to Perugino by Adolfo Venturi in 1913 and are now acknowledged as among his earliest known works (early 1470s?).
Madonna and Two Saints. Wood, 81 x 63.
The male saint, bearded and with his hands joined in prayer, was traditionally called Joseph but could be John the Baptist. The female saint, holding a martyr's palm, is usually identified as Catherine of Alexandria. The composition, with the Madonna shown half-length between two saints, and dark background recall Giovanni Bellini, and the picture may date from after Perugino’s visits to Venice in 1494-95. There is a variant – in which the male saint is replaced by another female saint – at Vienna. Acquired in 1821 from the collection of Louis XVIII.
Battle of Love and Chastity. Canvas, 160 x 191.
In a crowded and confused composition, Love is represented by Venus (with a long flaming torch) and Chastity by Pallas Athena (dressed in helmet and breastplate and about to strike a blind-folded cupid with her spear) and Diana (shooting an arrow at Venus, who is trying to set her dress on fire). Commissioned by Isabella d’Este who, in a correspondence consisting of over seventy letters, stipulated the size of the picture and the material used (tempera on canvas), and gave extremely detailed instructions as to its subject. Perugino was forbidden to ‘add anything of his own invention’. Negotiations for the picture started in 1497. A detailed programme for the allegory was composed by the Mantuan humanist Paride da Ceresara and incorporated into a contract of 19 January 1503. The fee was 100 ducats. The picture was finally delivered in June 1505. Isabella found it ‘well composed and coloured, but had it been finished with greater diligence … it would have been to your greater honour and your greater satisfaction’. The companion pictures in Isabella’s first Studiolo were the Parnassus and Triumph of Wisdom over the Vices, both by Mantegna, and an Allegory and Comus, by Lorenzo Costa. They were removed to Richelieu’s castle after the sack of Mantua in 1630, and are all now in the Louvre.
After Perugino's death, Isabella' d'Este's agents approached his widow, Chiara Fancelli, about an otherwise unknown painting of Vulcan, Venus and Mars. But when, on 6 October 1524, the widow wrote to Isabella offering to sell her the painting, Isabella refused it.
*Apollo and Marsyas (or Daphnis). Wood, 39 x 29.
One of only two surviving mythological paintings by Perugino (the other is the Battle of Love and Chastity). The subject has usually been interpreted as the arrogant Apollo looking down on Marsyas during their musical contest. The youth sitting playing his pipes has alternatively been identified as Daphnis, and it has been suggested that the picture was painted for Lorenzo de’ Medici (who was compared to Daphnis by Naldo Naldi). (However, in a preparatory drawing at Venice the seated youth appears to have pointed ears, identifying him as a faun or satyr – Marsyas rather than Daphnis.) This poetic cabinet picture was sold, as a Raphael, by Morris Moore for 200,000 francs to the Louvre in 1883 on condition that it was exhibited in the Salon Carré under the title of the ‘Raphael de Morris Moore’. Giovanni Morelli, in 1881, was the first to attribute it to Perugino. It probably dates from about 1490.
Saint Sebastian. Wood, 170 x 117.
The Latin inscription ('For thine arrows stick fast in me') along the bottom of the panel is from Psalms 38: 2. The languorously elegant pose of the saint – bound to the column and with his eyes lifted to Heaven – is identical to that in the San Domenico Altarpiece of 1493 in the Uffizi. Usually dated around 1493-97. First recorded in the seventeenth century in the Barberini collection. Bought in 1896 from the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome for 150,000 francs. There is a replica in the São Paolo Museum, Brazil, and a smaller variant in the Borghese Gallery, Rome.
Young Saint with a Sword. Wood, 102 in dia.
The sword is a common attribute, and the traditional identification of the young saint as Paul is probably incorrect. More likely possibilities are St Martin of Tours or St Julian the Hospitaller.The panel, which was originally square or rectangular rather than circular, belonged to the back upper tier of the Sant’Agostino Altarpiece. Work on the huge double-sided polyptych was drawn out over some twenty years (1502-23), and the Young Saint with a Sword was probably one of the last panels to be painted.
Virgin and Child with Two Female Saints and Two Angels. Wood, 148 in dia.
One saint is probably Catherine of Alexandria; the other is usually identified as Rose of Viterbo but could be Mary Magdalene. The large tondo was once considered an early work of Perugino himself (indeed cited by Crowe and Cavalcaselle as the best example of his early style), but now generally ascribed to an assistant or collaborator (Andrea d’Assisi?). It appears to have been executed in egg tempera, whereas Perugino virtually always used oil. Once in the Palazzo Corsini at Rome, and later owned by William II of Orange. Bought by the Louvre for 53,300 francs in 1850.
Paris. Musée Jacquemart-André.
Virgin with the Standing Child Blessing. Wood, 61 x 41.
The composition is of a type associated with Verrocchio (compare, for instance, the Madonna and Standing Child at Berlin). Previous owners included the London collector Alexander Barker and the Roman dealer Alessandro Castellani. Acquired by Nélie Jacquemart at an auction in Rome in 1884 as a work of Antonio Pollaiuolo. There was a subsequent attribution to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. An attribution to Perugino – as a very early work produced in Verrocchio's studio – was first published in 1932. It is not unanimously accepted. A copy at the Capodimonte, Naples, is ascribed to the minor Perugian painter Bernardino di Mariotto dello Stagno.
Pavia. Certosa. Second chapel, left.
The altarpiece was commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Lodovico il Moro, by 1496 and was left unfinished by Perugino. Only one of the six panels is original. This is the central one in the upper tier, which represents the Eternal Father (127 x 58). The originals of the three lower panels (replaced by poor copies on canvas) are in the National Gallery, London. The originals of the two upper side panels (representing the Angel Gabriel and Virgin Annunciate) were executed by Albertinelli in 1511 and are now in the Musée d’Art, Geneva. They have been replaced by panels by Ambrogio Bergognone taken from another altarpiece in the Certosa. The frame of red marble is not original but dates from the mid-seventeenth century.
The Eternal Father was reunited with the three National Gallery panels in the exhibition, Il Meglio Maestro d'Italia: Perugino nel suo Tempo, held at Perugia in 2023 to mark the 500th anniversary of the painter's death.
Perugia. Galleria Nazionale.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 241 x 180.
Mentioned by Vasari as an early work of Perugino, and now generally accepted as such, following attributions to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Morelli and Berenson) and even Ghirlandaio in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some of the figures, including Joseph and the eldest Magus, have been speculatively ascribed to Signorelli. The man in a red hat on the extreme left, behind the youngest of the Magi, is probably a self-portrait of Perugino in his mid-twenties. Painted, probably in the mid-1470s, for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi in Colle Landone. The church was patronised by the Baglioni, and the picture may contain portraits of members of the Perugian family of condottieri. The church was demolished in 1542, when the Rocca Paolina was built, and the picture was transferred to the Servites’ new church of Santa Maria Nuova. It was sent to the Musei Capitolini in Rome by the French in 1813, but returned to Perugia in 1817. Transferred to the gallery in 1863. The carved, painted and gilded frame is original.
Pietà with St Jerome and Mary Magdalene ('Gonfalone del Farneto'). Canvas, 130 x 165.
St Jerome is identified by his lion and Mary Magdalene by her jar of ointment. Rocky outcrops frame an atmospheric river landscape. From the Franciscan convent at Farneto (15 km north-east of Perugia on the road to Gubbio). It hung on the right side of the nave, near the entrance. Painted on canvas, it was probably a processional banner (gonfalone), though the horizontal format would be unusual for such a use. It was formerly ascribed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, but is now usually given to Perugino as a very early, Verrocchiesque work (1470s). The attribution is not certain, and the possibility that another artist from Verrocchio's circle was responsible cannot be ruled out. Transferred to the gallery in 1863. For a picture of its age and type (tempera on canvas), it is tolerably well preserved. Restored in 1959 and early 2023.
Saint Jerome in the Desert. Detached fresco, 137 x 77.
This damaged fresco entered the gallery in 1964 with the bequest of the art historian Mason Perkins. Its original location is unknown, and it is first recorded only in 1907 in the possession of Monsignor Nazzareno Marzolini, a prelate of Perugia. Originally ascribed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo or his school, the attribution to Perugino, as a very early work, was made by Berenson in 1936. The head of the saint is very similar to that of the St Jerome in the Pietà with SS. Jerome and Mary Magdalene.
Christ in the Tomb. Wood, 87 x 82.
Christ crowned with thorns, standing and extending his hands. The top (cimasa) of an altarpiece painted in 1495-96 for the chapel of the Decemviri (ten magistrates) in the Palazzo dei Priori (now part of the Galleria Nazionale). The fine carved and gilded wooden frame was made by the Perugian wood carver Giovanni Battista Bastoni. The main panel was looted by the French in 1797 and is now in the Vatican Gallery. The Dead Christ remained in the Sala dei Magistrato until 1863, when it was transferred to the gallery. The Christ in the Tomb and a copy of the main panel (painted in 1799 by Domenico Gambi) have been recently reassembled in the original frame and returned to the altarpiece's original location. Perugino's original main panel was reunited briefly with the Christ in the Tomb and the frame in an exhibition held at the Perugia gallery in October 2019 to January 2020.
Madonna of the Confraternita della Consolazione. Wood, 183 x 130.
A gonfalone (processional banner), commissioned in April 1496 for a confraternity of flagellants (disciplinati) and finished by 14 April 1498 (when Perugino received the balance of money due). Six white-robed members of the confraternity kneel behind the Madonna, seated on a bench. The Confraternita della Consolazione met originally in the crypt of the Augustinian church of Santa Maria Novella, but in 1500 it built its own oratory (Oratorio di Santa Maria della Consolazione) on what is now Corso Garibaldi. When the confraternity was closed by the French in 1797, one of its members hid the canvas to prevent its confiscation by the Napoleonic commissioners. The picture was moved to the Oratorio di San Pietro Matire in 1801, after the confraternity of the Consolazione merged with that of San Pietro Martire. Transferred to the gallery in 1863.
Madonna in Glory with Saints ('Pala Tezi'). Wood, 174 x 133.
St Bernardino of Siena and St Nicholas of Tolentino kneel beside the Madonna in the heavens; St Jerome, with his lion, and St Sebastian kneel on the ground. (The Madonna is identical in design to that in the Madonna of the Confraternita della Consolazione and was presumably taken from the same cartoon.) The city of Perugia is viewed in the distance. There is an arched opening (bottom centre) for a ciborium. The painted door, thought to have represented the Redeemer, is lost. The picture was painted in 1500 (the date is on the hem of the Virgin’s gown) for a Bernardino di ser Angelo, whose family chapel (later called the Cappella dei Tezi) was in Sant’Agostino at Perugia. The execution has sometimes been ascribed to an assistant (Eusebio da San Giorgio?), but a recent restoration has revealed its high quality. The predella, representing the Last Supper, was probably stolen during the French occupation of Perugia in 1797 and is now in Berlin. The main panel was transferred to the gallery in 1863.
‘Madonna della Giustizia’. Canvas, 263 x 176.
It was previously thought that this picture was commissioned as a gonfalone (processional banner) in 1501 by the Confraternity of Sant’Andrea della Giustizia, which was dedicated partly to the help of condemned prisoners. However, a document published in 1996 proves that it was painted for another confraternity, dedicated to St Bernardino of Siena. In November 1496, Perugino sought payment of an outstanding five florins for painting a gonfalone for the Confraternita di San Bernardino, whose oratory was near the Porta Eburnea (Ivory Gate) in Perugia.
St Bernardino and St Francis are shown kneeling in the foreground. The composition of the Madonna and Child – with the infant standing on the Virgin's knee, clutching the neckline of her dress and looking in the opposite direction – is repeated from the Decemviri Altarpiece (completed a year or so earlier for the chapel of the Palazzo dei Priori and now at the Vatican). The Madonna is not seated on a throne, as in the Decemviri Altarpiece, but on a bank of cloud between praying angels. The population of Perugia kneel in the middle distance – men and boys on the left, women and girls on the right, and the hooded, white-robed members of the confraternity at the back. In the far distance is a view of Perugia. (The road in the background leads to the Porta Eburnea.) In 1537, when the Confraternity of Sant’Andrea merged with the Confraternity of San Bernardino, the banner was moved to the Oratorio dei SS. Andrea e Bernardino and converted into an altarpiece. Transferred to the gallery in 1879. Altered as early as 1509, when a gold and silver crown was added to the Virgin’s head, and badly restored in 1789 by the Roman painter Francesco Romero. Repaint was removed in 1958.
Double-sided Altarpiece ('Pala di Monteripido'). Wood, 228 x 168.
One side incorporates a carved wooden crucifix (once attributed to Giovan Battista Bastone and more recently to Giovanni Tedesco). The Virgin and John the Evangelist stand at the sides; Mary Magdalene and St Francis kneel; and flying angels catch in chalices the blood that drips from the wounds in Christ's hands. On the other side: a Coronation of the Virgin, with the Twelve Apostles standing below. Ordered on 10 September 1502 (for delivery by Easter 1503) by the convent of San Francesco al Monte at Monteripido, outside the Porta Sant'Angelo at Perugia. It was intended for the high altar of the church (where the wooden crucifix already stood), as a replacement for a double-sided altarpiece painted around 1322 by the 'Paciano Master'. The Crucifixion side was to face the friars' choir and the Coronation was to face the chapel reserved for women. The price was 120 florins. To judge from its style, the Coronation may have been completed later than the Crucifixion – possibly in 1518, when a payment of seven ducats to Perugino is recorded. Much of the execution appears to have been delegated to assistants. Raphael seems to have drawn on the arrangement and poses of the saints in the Crucifixion for his own, almost contemporary Mond Crucifixion of 1503 (National Gallery, London). Sent to Rome in 1812 during the Napoleonic occupation, but returned in 1817. Transferred to the gallery in 1863. Restored in 1994. The predella, which included scenes of St Bernardino of Siena and the Blessed Bernardino da Feltre, is lost.
Adoration of the Shepherds. Frescoed lunette, 246 x 356.
This damaged lunette (restored in 1994 and again in 2021-22) was from the east door of San Francesco al Monte (or Monteripido) at Perugia. Perugino decorated two chapels in the church – probably shortly after 1499, when the building work was done. The frescoes were described as very damaged as early as 1674. The lunette was detached in 1856 and transferred to the gallery in 1863. This composition was often repeated by Perugino. The earliest version is probably the fresco in the Collegio del Cambio at Perugia (1498-1500). A fresco at San Francesco at Montefalco may date from around 1503. The composition is also largely repeated, on a small scale, in a predella panel at Chicago (1502-6?) and a panel at Bergamo.
St John the Baptist Altarpiece. Wood, 202 x 173.
The Baptist, standing high on a grassy mound and pointing towards Heaven, is flanked by St Francis (with cross and book) and St Jerome (reading) on the left, and St Sebastian (holding an arrow) and St Anthony of Padua (holding a flame) on the right. The picture was painted, probably around 1510, for the church of San Francesco al Prato at Perugia. It has the character of a pastiche, with elements pieced together from earlier works. The figures of St Jerome and St Francis are similar to those in the Schiavone Altarpiece, commissioned in 1507 for Santa Maria dei Servi and now in the National Gallery, London. For the figure of St Sebastian, curiously dressed in antique armour, Perugino seems to have adapted a cartoon used for the Cambio frescoes. The viewpoint is very low, suggesting that the altarpiece was originally placed quite high. The picture was earmarked in 1812 for the Musei Capitolini in Rome, but it remained in Perugia and was transferred to the gallery in 1863. In comparison with some earlier works by Perugino in the gallery, its appearance is rather flat and colourless.
Beato Giacomo della Marca. Canvas, 152 x 82.
St James of the Marches (1394-1476), a pupil of St Bernardino of Siena, was an itinerant Franciscan preacher. He holds a small reliquary inscribed Sanquine Criste – a reference to his controversial belief in the precious qualities of Christ’s blood. A late work, painted as a gonfalone for the Confraternità di San Gerolamo at Perugia. (It may date from after 1517, as it is not recorded in an inventory of the confraternity's possessions drawn up that year.) After the confraternity's oratory was demolished in 1797, the canvas was moved to the church of San Francesco al Prato. Transferred thence to the Accademia di Belle Arte in 1810. Currently relegated to the museum's deposit.
Saint Jerome. Canvas, 131 x 108.
The hermit saint kneels in penitence before a crucfix, clutching a stone with which to beat his breast. His cardinal's hat lies on the ground beside him, and his lion reclines nearby. Possibly a gonfalone. First recorded in 1784 in the sacristy of Sant’Ercolano at Perugia. It passed to the Compagnia di San Martino in 1836 and thence to the gallery in 1863. Late (about 1512-15?).
Transfiguration ('La Pala di Andreana Signorelli'). Wood, 290 x 185.
Ordered on 17 December 1517 by Andreana Signorelli for the Signorelli family chapel in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi in Colle Landone. The fee was 100 florins, and the final payment of 40 florins was made on 7 September 1518. The church was pulled down to make way for the Rocca Paolina, and the Servites moved to their new church of Santa Maria Nuova in 1542. The picture was restored in 1545 after damage by lightning. (Andreana Signorelli had made provision for the restoration in her will, drawn up the previous year.) Transferred to the gallery in 1863. Perugino seems to have reused for this picture his cartoons for the fresco of the same subject in the Cambio; the three figures on the ground (Saints John, Peter and James) have been reversed. The picture (particularly the lower part) is in poor condition. Heavy repaint, applied in a restoration of 1794, was removed in 1948.
Baptism; Nativity; Annunciation. Wood, 16/17 x 37.
These three small panels are usually assumed to have belonged to the predella of the Transfiguration of 1517-18. An alternative theory (almost certainly wrong) is that they came from the Schiavone Altarpiece (Madonna with SS. Francis and Jerome), which was also painted for Santa Maria dei Servi and is now in the National Gallery, London. The predella may have included one or two other panels, now lost.
Madonna with SS. Herculanus and Constantius ('Madonna della Cucina'). Wood, 80 x 55.
The martyr bishops Herculanus (Ercolano) and Constantius (Costanzo) are patron saints of Perugia. A late work of Perugino or his workshop (about 1515-18?), sometimes called the Madonna della Cucina as it came from the kitchen of the Palazzo dei Priori. Transferred to the gallery in about 1861. Before cleaning in 1947, the picture was so dirty as to be almost indecipherable.
Martyrdom of St Sebastian. Wood, 211 x 161.
In a spacious arcaded piazza, two archers fire arrows at the languorous saint, who stands high on a plinth, bound to a Corinthian column. Angels, hovering overhead, hold the palms and crown of martyrdom. This badly damaged panel is a simplified and reduced version of the fresco painted by Perugino at Panicale. It was commissioned by Giuliano and Sinibaldo Martinello in March 1505 for their chapel in the church of San Francesco al Prato at Perugia. It was apparently not completed until 1518 (the date inscribed on the pedestal of the column), and Perugino had to resort to legal action in June 1520 to extract payment. The picture has often been judged a workshop product, but allowance should be made for its late date and poor preservation. It was moved from its original location in the sixteenth century and transferred to the gallery in 1863. Currently relegated to the museum's deposit.
Panels from the Sant’Agostino Altarpiece.
The enormous, complex, free-standing, double-sided polyptych, consisting of perhaps thirty panels, stood between the nave and the choir of the church. The frame was fashioned by Mattia di Tommaso da Reggio in 1495 and enlarged by Giambattista Bastone in 1512 according to Perugino’s design. Perugino first received the commission for the paintings in 1502, and the contract was renewed in 1512, but the work was still not quite finished at his death in 1523. The panels on the front were painted first, while those on the back date from after 1512. Much of the execution was undoubtedly by Perugino’s assistants (particularly Eusebio da San Giorgio but perhaps also Bartolomeo di Giovanni, Giannicola and Andrea d’Assisi). The structure was dismantled in 1683. Seven panels were removed from the church during the Napoleonic occupation.
Some twenty panels are now in the Perugia Gallery. These include the two centre panels: the Baptism of Christ (261 x 146) from the front and the Adoration of the Shepherds (263 x 147) from the back. A side panel from the back (174 x 195) depicts St Jerome and Mary Magdalene. The panel representing God the Father (145 x 140) stood above the Baptism on the front. Two small tondi (61 in dia.) depicting the prophets David and Daniel are from the back, while the larger tondo of the Angel Gabriel (102 in dia.) is from an Annunciation on the front. There are also panels from both the front and back predelle, including scenes (40 x 84/85) of the Adoration of the Magi, Baptist Preaching, Wedding at Cana and Presentation in the Temple and small half-length figures of saints.
Four of the seven panels plundered in Napoleonic times are in French museums (Grenoble, Lyon, Toulouse and the Louvre). One has gone to an American museum (Birmingham, Alabama) and another has been returned to Perugia (a Pietà in the church of San Pietro). A panel formerly at Strasbourg (the Virgin Annunciate from the Annunciation on the front) was destroyed by fire during the Franco-Prussian War.
The surviving panels were reunited in 2004 for the exhibition Perugino: Il Divin Pittore in Perugia.
Miracles of San Bernardino. Wood, each 80 x 56.
Perugino is often thought to have played some part in the execution and design of these eight panels. The scenes most often attributed to him are the Healing of the Ulcer of the Daughter of Giovanni Antonio Petrazio da Rietri (inscribed with the date 1473 over the arch) and the Healing of the Blind Man. The eight panels decorated the sides of a niche in the church of San Francesco al Prato, where they are ascribed to Pisanello in old guidebooks. They were transferred to the gallery in 1863 (and ascribed just as improbably to Mantegna). Later attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, the panels are now thought to have been the work of at least four different artists, perhaps collaborating in the Perugian workshop of Bartolomeo Caporali and including Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, the youthful Pintoricchio, the miniaturist Pierantonio di Niccolô del Pocciolo and the rather obscure Sante di Apollonio del Celandro. Restored in 1991-93.
'Ranieri Annunciation'. Wood, 56 x 42.
The scene is set in an airy courtyard, with a typical Umbrian landscape viewed through the arches at the end. The poses of the Virgin and Angel are similar to those in the Fano Annunciation of 1489(?). The little panel belongs to a private collector, who placed it on loan with the gallery in 2012 (initially for five years). The attribution to Perugino is disputed.
Perugia. Collegio del Cambio. Sala dell’Udienza.
The Sala dell'Udienza, the audience hall of the bankers' guild at Perugia, was built in 1452-7 but was left undecorated for forty years. The Collegio discussed the decoration on 26 January 1496 and named Perugino as its preferred artist. It drew up a contract (recently discovered) in May/June 1496. But, with Perugino spending most of 1497 in Florence and Fano, the work is unlikely to have started much before 1498. It may have been completed by 1500 (the date inscribed on the central pilaster on the right). Perugino's fee was 350 large gold ducats (paid partly in annual installments to June 1507). The elaborate programme, which combines allegorical and sacred subjects, seems to have been devised largely by Francesco Maturanzio, professor of rhetoric at Perugia, who composed the couplets featured on the tablets on the walls. It alludes to the functions of the Cambio, which served as a mercantile court and charity as well as a bank.
The two large lunettes (each about 290 x 400) on the left wall represent the Cardinal Virtues and Famous Men of Antiquity. The first shows allegorical figures of Prudence and Justice enthroned on clouds above imaginary portraits of Greeks and Romans celebrated for these virtues. The Roman politician and general Fabius Maximus, the Greek philosopher Socrates and the legendary KIng of Rome Nuna Pompilius represent prudence, while the Roman statesman Marcus Furius Camillus, the Greek sage Pittacus of Mytilene and the Roman Emperor Trajan represent justice. The other fresco shows figures of Fortitude and Temperance enthroned on clouds above six other Greek and Roman exemplars. The Roman orator Lucius Lininus Crassus, the Spartan king Leonidas and the Roman hero Horatius Cocles represent fortitude, while the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, the Athenian statesman Pericles and the Roman statesman Cincinnatus represent temperance. Adolfo Venturi seems to have been the first to ascribe the figure of Fortitude to the seventeen-year-old Raphael. This attribution is repeated in guidebooks, though there is no hard evidence that Raphael worked in the Cambio. On the middle pilaster is Perugino's vigorous Self-Portrait (40 x 30) in a painted frame hanging by a string of coral beads from a nail. The Latin inscription on the tablet below reads: 'Pietro Perugino, famous painter, rediscovered with patient determination the art of painting when it was lost, and when no-one was giving it life, he was the first to create art that was beautiful'.
The single scene (229 x 370) on the right wall represents Old Testament Prophets and Sibyls. God the Father, framed by heads of seraphim and flanked by fluttering angels, appears in a mandorla to Isaiah, Moses, Daniel, David, Jeremiah and Solomon and to the Eritrean, Persian, Cumaean, Libyan, Tiburtine and Delphic Sibyls. The prophets and sibyls all hold long scrolls with fragments of prophecy. The fresco is thought to represent Hope, one of the three Theological Virtues. On the end wall are two scenes from the New Testament: the Transfiguration (226 x 229) and Nativity (264 x 225). These are thought to represent the other Theological Virtues of Faith and Charity. It had been intended that the Transfiguration and Nativity should be executed in oil on panel, but the Collegio for some reason rejected the panel supplied and the scenes were done in fresco instead.
In a painted niche to the right of the entrance is the standing figure of the Roman consul Marcus Porcius Cato, who presumably personifies Wisdom. The figure was originally over a pulpit used for addressing gatherings of the Cambio.
The vaulted ceiling is painted with grotesque decoration and representations in roundels of the seven planetary gods (Apollo in the centre, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and Diana as the moon). The gods ride in triumphal cars drawn by eagles, doves, horses, the Hours and a dragon and on the wheels of their cars are the Signs of the Zodiac. The ceiling decoration is thought to have been designed by Perugino but executed entirely by assistants, possibly Giannicola di Paolo (who decorated the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista in the Collegio) and/or Andrea d'Assisi (called L'Ingegno, who painted some 'very beautiful figures' in the Sala dell'Udienza according to Vasari). Perugino was probably also assisted in the Cambio by a team of local painters (including Berto di Giovanni and Eusebio da San Giorgio) who rented a workshop nearby.
The exquisitely carved and inlaid furniture and wainscotting was made by Domenico del Tasso and Antonio di Mercatello and is contemporary with the painted decoration.
Perugia. San Pietro dei Cassinensi.
First altar of the left aisle.
Pietà. Wood, 144 x 152.
The dead Christ is seated on the edge of his sarcophagus. Joseph of Arimathea (or Nicodemus) stands behind supporting his body, while the Virgin and John the Evangelist kneel at the sides holding his arms. The panel came from the top of the back of the huge double-sided altarpiece painted by Perugino and his workshop for Sant'Agostino at Perugia. It was one of seven panels from the polyptych siezed in 1797 by the French art commissioner Jacques-Pierre Tinet. It was recovered by Canova, and given to San Pietro in 1816 in compensation for Sassoferrato's Immaculate Conception. The Pietà, rapidly and thinly painted in Perugino's late style, dates from around 1512-15. The composition largely repeats that of the Albizi Pietà of 1497 (a detached fresco now owned by the Saving Bank (Cassa di Risparmio) of Florence).
Five Saints. Wood.
From the altarpiece painted for San Pietro in about 1496-98. The half-length figures (33 x 38) of Costanzo and Ercolano, the patron saints of Perugia, are from the predella. The other three saints (32 x 28) – Scolastica, Maurus and Peter in Chains – are from the bases of the columns that formed the sides of the altarpiece. The St Scolastica is a copy – the original was stolen in 1916 and never recovered. The rest of the altarpiece was taken from the church by Tinet in 1797. Three other small panels of saints now are in the Vatican Gallery, the centre panel and lunette are in Lyon, two tondi of prophets are in Nantes, and the predella is in Rouen.
Perugia. San Severo.
Six Saints. 470 x 390 (whole fresco).
The fresco was saved when the old church of San Severo was demolished in 1748-51. It was painted on the wall of a chapel, around a niche containing a polychrome terracotta statue of the Virgin and Child. According to the (restored) inscription, the upper part – representing the Holy Trinity with Saints – was painted by Raphael in 1505. Beneath, in 1521, Perugino added six further saints: Scholastica, Jerome, John the Evangelist, Gregory the Great, Boniface, and Martha. The fresco was heavily restored in 1834-35 (by Giuseppe Carattoli) and 1871 (by Nicola Consoni). Some of the nineteenth-century repainting was removed in 1974-76.
Perugia. Convent of Sant’Agnese (Cappella della Consolazione).
Madonna and Saints. Fresco, 230 x 350.
The fresco takes the form of a triptych. In the centre, the Virgin stands in an open landscape with her arms raised in a gesture of blessing. Angels hold a crown above her head. At the sides, St Anthony Abbot (dressed as a Hospitaller and leaning on a Tau-shaped staff) and St Anthony of Padua (wearing a pale brown Franciscan habit and holding a lily) are depicted standing in niches. The two diminutive Franciscan nuns praying to the Virgin have sometimes been identified as St Elizabeth of Portugal (on the left holding a rosary) and St Elizabeth of Hungary (with roses gathered in her habit). There is a local tradition that the nuns were Perugino's cousins and that he painted the fresco by way of a dowry upon their entry into the convent.
The fresco was painted on the end wall of a cloister, but the spaces between the columns were later filled in to create a chapel. The nuns of Sant’Agnese were a strictly closed order, and the fresco is mentioned for the first time only in 1822. The fresco is said to have been signed and dated 1522 (though some recent critics have judged it earlier in style). A recent restoration has revealed the original inscription, which gives the the names of two donors: Eufrasia degli Arcipreti and Teodora di Pier Matteo (who may well be the kneeling nuns). Other frescoes (the Eternal Father with SS. Sebastian and Roch and the Crucifixion) have been attributed to Eusebio da San Giorgio.
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute.
St Augustine with members of a Confraternity. Wood, 94 x 64.
St Augustine, wearing a bishop's mitre and holding a crosier, raises his right hand to bless the spectator. Four white-robed members of a confraternity dedicated to the saint kneel in the landscape behind. The panel was probably one side of a processional banner painted around 1500 for the confraternity of Sant’Agostino at Perugia. Once in the possession of Lucien Bonaparte, it was sold in London in 1815 and was later in the collections of Willem II of Holland and of the Duke of Weimar. By 1930, it had been acquired by the entrepreneur and art collector Richard Weininger, who moved from Berlin to London in 1938 and thence to New York in 1947. Purchased by the Carnegie Institute in 1961. Metalpoint studies by Perugino for two of the kneeling confraternity members are preserved in American museums (Metropolian Museum, New York, and the Clark Institute at Williamstown).
Polesden Lacey (Surrey).
Miracle of the Foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore. Wood, 19 x 40.
The panel depicts the legend of how, during the pontificate of Liberius in the fourth century, a vision led to the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore being founded on the site of a miraculous snowfall in August. Clearly from the same predella as the Birth of the Virgin at Liverpool (which is the same size and has the same red and white painted oval framing around the scene). Both panels appear to have come from the Palazzo Pucci in Florence. They were in the collection of Lord Cawdor in the late eighteenth century and were sold at Christie’s in 1804. The Polesden Lacey picture was later at Elmley Castle, Worcester, and was bought by Robert Langton Douglas for £250 in 1917. Formerly ascribed to Filippino Lippi, and given to the youthful Perugino by Federico Zeri in 1965 (Burlington Magazine). The Polesden Lacey and Liverpool panels probably belonged to the predella of an altarpiece produced in Verrocchio's workshop around the early or mid-1470s. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the altarpiece was painted for the Florentine church of Santissima Annunziata. (The cult of the Virgin's miraculous foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore was celebrated at the church. Moreover, the panels have a Pucci provenance, and members of that family had the patronage of several altars in the church.)
Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art.
Virgin; St John the Evangelist. 21 in dia.
These two small roundels may have belonged to the same predella as a Dead Christ in the museum at Montefortino and a St Peter (?) in the Olana State Historical Site (Hudson, New York). Variously attributed to Perugino (as very late works), his studio and his school. Formerly in the Cook collection at Richmond, Surrey; given to the North Carolina Museum by the Kress Foundation in 1960.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale.
St Filippo Benizzi. Wood, 79 x 62.
The saint was formerly misidentified as Nicholas of Tolentino. Filippo Benizzi (Philip Benizi) is the principal saint of the Servites, a monastic order founded in Florence in the thirteenth century. The Latin inscription on the book is from Psalm 116 ('I am your servant and son of your handmaid'). The panel, originally full-length, is from the huge double-sided high altarpiece painted by Filippino Lippi and Perugino in 1503-7 for the Servite church of the Annunziata in Florence. It was originally situated on one of the two ends. But in 1546, when the altarpiece was converted into a ciborium, it was cut down and installed above a panel of the Blessed Francis of Siena (now in Altenburg). Formerly in the Torlonia collection; bequeathed in 1892.
The panel from the other end of the altarpiece represented St Catherine of Alexandria. Now also cut down to half-length, it was sold at Sotheby's in 1967 and is last recorded at the Galleria Moretti, Florence.
Rome. Vatican. Sistine Chapel.
Perugino probably started work on the cycle of seventeen wall frescoes sometime in 1480 – before the arrival (by October 1481) of the other major contributors (Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio). He painted the most important scenes, and is sometimes credited with supervising the whole project (though there is no documentary evidence for this). Perugino’s work was probably completed by 5 October 1482, when he is recorded in Florence. Sixtus IV inaugurated the chapel on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1483. Perugino’s three frescoes over the high altar – an Assumption (with a kneeling portrait of Sixtus IV), a Nativity and a Finding of Moses – were destroyed in 1535-41 when Michelangelo painted his Last Judgement. The composition of the Assumption is recorded by a drawing, attributed either to Perugino's workshop or to a follower of Pintoricchio, in the Albertina at Vienna.
**Christ giving the Keys to Peter. Fresco, 335 x 550.
The only one of the surviving series largely by Perugino, and probably the most famous of all his works. The subject (from Matthew 16: 17-19) is rare in Renaissance art and carries an obvious message of papal authority. The scene is set in a great piazza; in the centre is a domed and porticoed Renaissance-style Temple of Solomon, and on either side are triumphal arches resembling the Arch of Constantine. The Arch of Constantine also features prominently in Botticelli's fresco of the Punishment of Korah on the opposite wall, and probably alludes to the power granted to the Papacy by the first Christian Emperor. The Latin inscriptions on the arches compare Pope Sixtus to King Solomon: 'You, Sixtus, unequal in wealth but superior in religion to Solomon, have consecrated this immense temple'.
In the centre forground, Christ hands the keys of gold and silver to the kneeling St Peter. The other eleven Apostles stand on either side (Judas, the fifth Apostle to the left of Christ, has his hand in his purse). In the background are shown the payment of the tribute (left) and the attempted stoning of Christ (right). The geometry of single point perspective has been used to calculate the size of the background figures and buildings, and to foreshorten the pavement. The vanishing point is placed close to the centre of the temple doorway. The portraits are said to include Giovannino dei Dolci (architect of the Sistine Chapel, second from the right, holding a square), the architect Baccio Pontelli (third, holding a pair of dividers), Perugino himself (fifth, looking towards the viewer), and Alfonso II of Naples (in profile, far left). Several of the figures have been plausibly ascribed to Luca Signorelli. According to Vasari, Bartolomeo della Gatta also assisted on the fresco.
*Baptism of Christ. Fresco, 335 x 540.
John the Baptist baptises Christ in the River Jordan (Matthew 3: 13-17). God the Father, represented in a circle of cherubs' heads and flanked by angels, appears in the sky, and the dove of the Holy Spirit hovers above Christ's head. In separate episodes, John the Baptist preaches on the hill to the left and Christ preaches on the hill to the right. The walled city in the distance contains recognisable Roman monuments: a triumphal arch, the Colosseum and the Pantheon. Many of the bystanders to the left and right of the main scene are probably portraits of relatives and favourites of Sixtus IV, who was notorious for his nepotism. Although Perugino’s signature appears on the border above, Morelli (1892-93) and Berenson (1897 to 1968 Lists) ascribed the fresco entirely to Pintoricchio (who Vasari says was Perugino's assistant at this time). Most modern opinion attributes the fresco to Perugino, but acknowledges substantial workshop assistance. Vasari names Andrea d’Assisi and Rocco Zoppo among Perugino's assistants in the Sistine Chapel.
*Journey of Moses to Egypt. Fresco, 335 x 540.
Several incidents are shown (Exodus 4: 18-26). In the middle distance, Moses takes leave of his father-in-law Jethro before returning to Egypt. In the left foreground, Moses embarks on the journey, accompanied by his wife Zipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer. In the centre, the angel orders Moses to circumcise Gershom, the eldest son. On the right, the circumcision is performed by Moses’ wife Zipporah with a sharp stone. On the hill to the left, shepherds make merry. A man plays the bagpipes and a couple dance. As in the case of the Baptism, most of the execution was probably by Perugino's assistants. Morelli, followed by Berenson and other early twentieth-century writers, attributed the fresco to Pintoricchio. In her 1999 Catalogo Completo, Vittoria Garibaldi ascribed the execution to Pintoricchio, Piermatteo d'Amelia and Il Pastura, while other writers have posited the involvement of Andrea d'Assisi and/or Rocco Zoppo.
Rome. Vatican. Stanza dell’Incendio.
In the quadrants are four large circular medallions (240 in dia.) representing God the Father and Christ in a variety of manifestations. The east medallion shows God the Creator. God the Father, seated on a golden throne and surrounded by angels, holds an orb and raises his right hand in blessing. The south medallion depicts the Temptation of Christ. The Devil, disguised as an old man, offers Christ a stone to turn into bread. In the background, Christ is reprepresented as the 'sun of righteousness' (an allusion to Malachi 4: 2). The west medallion represents the Trinity. Christ stands blessing, with God the Father above, the dove of the Holy Spirit below, and the Twelve Apostles kneeling at the sides. The north medallion shows Christ in Glory. He is flanked by allegorical figures of Mercy (or Grace) and Justice. The triangular pendentives are richly decorated in the grotesque style. Antique busts, putti and vases with tendrils of acanthus are represented against a fictive gold mosaic background.
Painted (probably mainly by Perugino’s assistants) in 1508. The ceiling was spared when the room was frescoed by Raphael and his assistants in 1514-17.
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
*Madonna and Child with Saints ('Pala dei Decemviri'). Wood, 193 x 165.
The main panel of an altarpiece commissioned by the Decemviri – the ten magistrates of the city of Perugia – for their chapel in the Palazzo dei Priori. (The chapel, on the top floor of the Palazzo dei Priori, is now room 21 of the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria.) The Madonna is shown enthroned in majesty between the four patron saints of the city. Lawrence (wearing richly embroidered deacon's vestments) and the youthful Louis of Toulouse (wearing a Franciscan habit over a bishop's cope embroidered with Angevin fleurs-de-lys) are on the right. The balding and bareheaded Constantius (said to have been the first Bishop of Perugia) and Herculanus (a sixth-century Bishop of Perugia) are on the left.
The gestation of the altarpiece was very long drawn out. The commission was initially awarded on 7 June 1479 to the Perugian painter Pietro di Galeotto, who died in May 1483 before finishing the picture. The commission was then offered to Perugino, who soon left the city, however. The commission passed next to the rather obscure Sante di Apollonio del Celandro, who painted the cimasa – a square pinnacle representing the Madonna della Misericordia with portraits of the Decemviri – but seems then to have lost the commission (and died in 1486). Some ten years later, on 6 March 1495, the contract with Perugino was revived, and the altarpiece was finished the following year. Perugino – who replaced Sante di Apollonio's pinnacle with a Pietà – was paid 100 florins. In 1553, the altarpiece was moved to a new chapel on the first floor of the Palazzo dei Priori. It was dismembered in 1797 and the main panel was taken to Paris. The frame and the Pietà remained behind and are now in the gallery at Perugia. When the main panel was returned to Italy in 1816, it was placed by Pius VII in the new Vatican Pinacoteca rather than returned to Perugia.
*The Resurrection. Wood, 233 x 156.
Commissioned on 2 March 1499 for the chapel of a prosperous sugar merchant, Bernardino di Giovanni di Matteo dicto da Orvieto, in the church of San Francesco al Prato at Perugia. It was to be finished by April, according to the contract, and Perugino was to be paid 55 florins (a comparatively low fee). For the figure of Christ – who is shown hovering in a mandorla above the tomb rather than stepping out of it – Perugino may have reused the cartoon he made for the San Pietro Ascension (now at Lyon). There is an unreliable tradition that one of the soldiers is a portrait of Raphael (who is also said, equally unreliably, to have worked on the picture). The Resurrection was the first (and finest) of several pictures painted by Perugino for San Francesco al Prato. It is another of the pictures that were taken to France in 1797 and entered the Papal collections on their return to Italy. Since the pontificate of Paul VI, it has been hung in the papal library, which is on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace and inaccessible to the public. (The Resurrection can often be seen in television broadcasts, hanging behind the Pope when he receives official guests.) Thoroughly restored in 2000-4.
Heads of Saints Placidus, Flavia and Benedict. Wood, 31 x 26.
St Flavia, crowned and with her hands clasped, and St Placidus, bearing a palm, were brother and sister and early disciples of St Benedict, who holds holy water and a book. The three small panels are from the bases of the columns that formed the sides of the altarpiece painted in about 1496-98 for the Benedictine church of San Pietro in Perugia. Five other small panels of saints are still in the church; the main panel, the Ascension, is in Lyon.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Madonna. Wood, 45 x 37.
The design of the Virgin and Child virtually repeats that in the altarpiece by Perugino, dated 1497, at Fano (though the Child is shown in reverse). Of unknown provenance. Sometimes (eg by Scarpellini in his 1991 monograph on Perugino) ascribed to the artist’s workshop. There are other versions (perhaps also by Perugino’s studio) in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Saint Sebastian. Wood, 110 x 63.
A smaller variant of the well-known panel painting in the Louvre. The differences of composition are slight. (In the Louvre version, the pillars at the sides have grotesque decoration and the saint is pierced by just two arrows rather than five.) Recorded as a work of Perugino in a 1650 Borghese inventory. It has often been considered only an old copy (and is classed as such in Scarpellini's 1991 L'Opera Completa). It was, however, included as an autograph work in the small exhibition, Pietro Perugino: Master of Raphael, held in 2014-15 at the Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris.
Rome. Villa Albani Torlonia.
Polyptych. Wood, 140 x 160.
The three main sections represent the Nativity between SS. Michael and John the Baptist (left) and SS. George and Jerome (right). The landscape and architecture are continuous across the three panels, but there are differences in the scale of the figures (the saints at the sides being smaller than the Joseph and Mary in the centre). The main panels are surmounted by three smaller panels of the Crucifixion between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate. Probably painted in Rome for Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere (nephew of Sixtus IV, Bishop of Ostia and later Julius II), who employed Perugino to decorate his palazzo with frescoes. Signed and dated 1491 on the capitals of the pillars. It passed from the Albani to the Chigi family in 1852, and then to the Torlonia in 1866. In spite of the signature, the attribution has occasionally been questioned (eg. by Francis Russell in an exhibition review published in the June 2004 issue of Apollo). The picture appears to be painted in egg tempera, whereas Perugino virtually always used oil.
The villa can only be visited on request.
Rouen. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Adoration of the Magi; Baptism; Resurrection. Wood, 31 x 59.
These three panels formed most of the predella of the altarpiece of the Ascension painted in about 1496-98 for San Pietro in Perugia. The altarpiece was taken from the church in 1798 and the three predella panels were sent to Rouen in 1803. Two smaller panels from the predella, representing St Costanzo and St Ercolano, are still in the church. The main panel of the altarpiece and the lunette are in Lyon. In the nineteenth century, the Rouen panels were attributed to the young Raphael by, among others, the painter Eugène Delacroix. A faithful copy of the Baptism in the National Gallery, London, has been recently attributed to the seventeenth-century painter Sassoferrato, who copied several of Perugino's works.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Bust of St Sebastian. Wood, 53 x 40.
Signed in gold letters on the shaft of the arrow protruding from the saint's neck. A half-length replica of the figure of the saint in the picture in the Louvre, which itself repeats the figure of the saint in the San Domenico Altarpiece of 1493 (Uffizi). Formerly in the Villa Wolkonski, Rome. Bought for 100,000 francs in 1911.
Ascension of Christ. Wood, 333 x 266.
Christ, framed by a mandorla of cherubs' heads, ascends to Heaven. Four angels standing on clouds play a viol, harp, rebec and lute, while two flying angels point towards Heaven and dangle blue ribbons that form scroll patterns. On Earth below, the Virgin Mary prays between the two groups of Apostles. She is flanked by St Peter (with the key to Heaven) and St Paul (with sword). The flowers and plants (iris, daisy, red anemones, plantain and columbine) growing in the grassy foreground probably carry symbolic meaning. The picture was painted in Florence, according to Vasari, and ‘transported on the backs of porters at very great cost to the church of San Gilio’. Although Vasari refers to the Sansepolcro picture first, it is considered a replica of the centre panel, now in Lyon, of the San Pietro Altarpiece of 1496-98. The execution has been ascribed to Perugino’s shop (Gerino da Pistoia?). Restored in 1997.
São Paolo. Museu de Arte.
Saint Sebastian. Canvas, 177 x 120.
An almost exact replica, by Perugino and his workshop, of the picture in the Louvre. Formerly in the collection of the Earls of Crawford at Haigh Hall, Wigan. (Alexander Lindsay, the 25th Earl, bought it from a Signor Bruschetti of Milan in 1865.) Acquired by the museum in 1947.
Senigallia. Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Madonna and Saints. Wood, 280 x 227.
The Virgin and Child are enthroned between Saints John the Baptist, Louis of Toulouse and Francis (left) and Peter, Paul and James the Great (right). The undocumented picture is nearly identical to the altarpiece at Fano (commissioned in 1488 and dated 1497). The only change of importance is the replacement of Mary Magdalene by St James. The newly restored altarpiece was the focus of an exhibition held in June-November 2014 at Senigallia (Palazzo del Duca). Last restored in 1933, the picture had become very dirty and the panel had been attacked by worm.
Siena. Sant’Agostino (second altar, south side).
*Crucifixion ('Pala Chigi'). Wood, 400 x 290.
Of the saints shown, only Mary Magdalene (one of the female saints kneeling at the foot of the cross), John the Evangelist (standing on the right wringing his hands) and the Virgin Mary (standing on the left, contemplating her son on the cross) would have been present at the Crucifixion. On the far left, the kneeling St Augustine wears a beautifully embroidered gold cope over the black habit of an Augustinian monk, and his mother St Monica, standing behind him, wears the black habit of an Augustinian nun. On the far right, John the Baptist points towards Christ and the penitential St Jerome kneels with a stone in his hand. Two flying angels catch in gold chalices the blood that drips from the nail wounds in Christ's hands. In a nest at the top of the cross, a pelican pecks its breast to feed its young with its own blood.
The altarpiece still hangs over the altar for which it was painted. It was commissioned by Mariano Chigi, father of the famous banker Agostino Chigi. In a letter of 7 November 1500, Agostino wrote from Rome to his father as follows: ' ... if the Perugian with whom you have spoken is master Pietro Perugino, I can say of your wishing to have the [altarpiece] done by him, that he is the best painter in Italy'. Almost two years later, on 4 August 1502, Agostino's cousin Cristoforo di Benedetto Chigi signed a contract for the altarpiece on behalf of Mariano Chigi. The work seems to have been finished by June 1506. Perugino was paid 200 gold ducats. The altarpiece had a predella and was surmounted by a terracotta statue of the Risen Christ.
Spello. Santa Maria Maggiore.
Pietà. Fresco, 163 x 155.
St John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene kneel at the sides. A very late work, signed and dated 1521 on the two plaques hanging from the canopy over the Virgin's throne. An inscription on the base of the throne gives the name of the donor: one Michelangelo Andine.
Virgin and Child. Fresco, 163 x 145.
The companion fresco to the Pietà, on the opposite pilaster near the high altar. On the left of the enthroned Virgin stands St Catherine of Alexandria (holding a palm and book and standing on her broken wheel) and on her right St Blaise (with bishop's mitre and crosier and holding his wool comb). Dated 25 April 1521 on the base of the throne. The donor is named as Giovanni Bernadelli.
The commission for the frescoes was initially given to Perugino's former pupil Giannicola di Paolo, and it passed to Perugino after Giannicola had failed to deliver. The contract, drawn up on 13 March 1521 between Perugino and the church canons, stipulated that the frescoes should be completed in just two months for the very modest fee of 25 gold ducats, plus hospitality ('room, bed, clothes, bread, wine, oil and wood'). The frescoes (now detached) are still in their original positions, though the altars for which they were painted were destroyed in 1644.
Stockholm. National Museum.
Saint Sebastian. Canvas (mounted on panel), 174 x 88.
One of almost a dozen paintings of St Sebastian by Perugino. The saint is normally shown bound to a column with his arms behind his back, but he is depicted here, full length in a landscape, with his wrists tied above him to the severed branches of a tree. Signed ('Petrus Perusinus Pinxit') on the arrow piercing his left flank. Said to have been in a Yorkshire collection since the eighteenth century, the picture was first ‘published’ by Lionello Venturi in 1923 when it was in the hands of the art dealer Arthur Joseph Sulley of Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, London. Acquired by the Stockholm Museum in 1928 on the recommendation of the Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén. Published opinions on dating have ranged quite widely (1475 to 1500), but the picture is likely to be comparatively early. Transferred from its original panel to canvas, and somewhat damaged and restored.
Toulouse. Musée des Augustins.
Saints John the Evangelist and Augustine. Wood, 173 x 91.
The identification of the fair-haired young saint, pointing to a page in his open book, as John the Evangelist is plausible but not quite certain. St Augustine wears the black habit of an Augustinian friar under his red bishop's cope. A side panel from the huge, double-sided Sant’Agostino Altarpiece – most of which is preserved in the gallery at Perugia. It flanked the Baptism on the front. It is one of the finest panels from the altarpiece, which was executed with much workshop assistance over many years (1502-23).
Trevi. Santa Maria delle Lacrime. Second chapel on right.
Adoration of the Magi. Fresco, 388 x 300.
In the arch above, an Annunciation in two roundels; St Peter (damaged and restored) and St Paul in painted niches at the sides. A very late work, signed on the base of the Virgin’s throne and dated 1521. It was presumably painted towards the end of the year as Perugino is documented at Trevi between September and December. The composition – with the Madonna enthroned under a wooden shelter set in a green valley, Magi kneeling and attendants clustered at the sides, and a landscape with small figures of shepherds and horsemen – largely repeats that of the fresco painted by Perugino seventeen years earlier at Città della Pieve, and individual figures were clearly executed from old cartoons.
The church reopened in 2006 after earthquake damage in 1997.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Madonna and Four Saints. Wood, 186 x 172.
The Virgin and Child are enthroned under a canopy between St Peter (with gold and silver keys) and St Paul (with sword). The elderly, fork-bearded saint (with pen and book) in the left background is called Jerome in the older literature but is likely to be John the Evangelist or possibly Matthew. John the Baptist (with reed cross) is in the right background. On the plinth of the Virgin's throne is an inscription giving the name of the priest who commissioned the work (Giovanni di Cristoforo da Terreno) and the date (1493). The original location of the picture (evidently an altarpiece) is unknown. First recorded in 1646 in the collection of Giovan Carlo de' Medici, son of Grand Duke Cosimo II, who donated his pictures to the Pitti Gallery. It came to VIenna in 1796 in an exchange of works of art. The Madonna seems to have been derived from the same cartoon as the Madonnas in the San Domenico Altarpiece, also of 1493, in the Uffizi, and the Cremona Altarpiece of 1494.
Madonna and Child with Two Female Saints. Wood, 85 x 62.
The saint on the right, holding a palm branch, has been called Catherine of Alexandria but could be any one of a number of female martyrs. The saint on the left, with hands joined in prayer and no identifying attributes, has been variously called Rose of Viterbo, Agnes and Mary Magdalene. One of a group of closely related small-scale devotional pictures, which includes the Madonna without attendant saints at Frankfurt (which seems to have used the same cartoon in reverse), the Madonna with SS. Catherine and Joseph in the Louvre, and the late Madonna della Cucina at Perugia. There is also a replica, of lower quality, at Florence (Pitti). Recorded at Vienna since the early seventeenth century.
Baptism of Christ. Wood, 30 x 23.
The figures of Christ and the Baptist closely resemble those in the predella panel at Rouen (from the San Pietro Altarpiece of 1496-98). Dismissed as a copy by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864) and Williamson (1900); accepted as genuine by more recent experts, though with little agreement on dating. Recorded in the collection of Archduke Sigismond at Innsbrück and, in 1723, in the château at Ambras.
Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. Wood, 30 x 23.
The small panel, identical in size to the Baptism, also came from the château at Innsbrück (where it is recorded as early as 1663). The figure of the penitent saint, kneeling before a tall crucifix with a stone in his hand, is similar to that in the much larger picture at Caen. His familar lion reclines in the background and his cardinal's top lies in the bottom right corner. The panel could date from the late 1490s or early 1500s. The attribution has occasionally been questioned.
Washington. National Gallery of Art.
*Triptych: Crucifixion and Saints. Wood (transferred to canvas in 1886). Centre panel: 102 x 57; side panels: 95 x 30.
Originally a small altarpiece with folding wings. The rectangular centre panel shows Christ on the cross between the grieving Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist. The side panels are arched. The left-hand one depicts St Jerome, wearing only a loincloth, leaning on a makeshift crutch and beating his breast with a stone. Behind him are his lion and the cave where he lives as a hermit. The right-hand panel shows St Mary Magdalene meditating on Christ's suffering on the cross. Her jar of ointment rests on a nearby rock. The naturalistic and highly detailed landscape, which runs without interuption across the three panels, seems to show the influence of Netherlandish painters. The flowers, meticulously painted in the foreground, probably have symbolic significance. (For instance, columbines are associated with the Holy Spirit and red anemones symbolise Christ's blood shed on the cross.)
The triptych is a comparatively early work, probably painted in the early or mid-1480s, shortly after the Sistine Chapel frescoes. It was presented to the church of San Domenico at San Gimignano by Cardinal Bartolomeo Bartoli (died 1497), Bishop of Cagli, confessor to Sixtus IV and a prominent Dominican theologian. It was attributed to Raphael in Coppi’s 1685 guidebook to San Gimignano. It was taken from the church by French soldiers in 1797; restored by the painter Fabre; and sold (as a Raphael) to Prince Alexander Galitzyn, the Russian ambassador to Rome, in 1800 for 15,000 lire. Though attributed to Perugino in the Galitzyn collection, the Raphael attribution was revived after the picture was acquired by the Hermitage in 1886 (the curator claiming to have discovered the artist’s initials on the border of St John’s tunic). One of twenty-one old master paintings bought by Andrew Mellon in 1929-31 from the Hermitage at St Petersburg for almost seven million dollars. In excellent condition for a transferred painting. The decorated Renaissance-style frame is modern.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 70 x 51.
This panel is close in style to the Virgin Adoring in London from the Certosa di Pavia., and it probably dates from around 1500. It was formerly in aristocratic collections in Madrid (Marchesi di Villafranca, Marqués de la Romana and Marqués de Villamayor). It was sold to Duveen and acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1936. Rather worn (especially the Child) and retouched.
Portrait of Lorenzo di Credi (?). Canvas (transferred), 44 x 31.
An inscription on the back of the original panel read: ‘Lorenzo di Credi, most excellent painter, 1488, age 32 years, 8 months’. (The inscription, possibly dating from the sixteenth century, was preserved when the picture was transferred to canvas in 1933, but is now unfortunately lost.) The woodcut portrait of Credi in Vasari's Lives shows him considerably older, in profile and wearing a hat, but some degree of resemblance seems undeniable. The painting came to light only in 1901, when it was loaned by William Beattie of Glasgow to an exhibition in London. It was sold in 1911 to the immensely wealthy Philadelphia businessman Peter Widener, and was one of more than three hundred art objects donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1942 by Widener's son Joseph. Previously regarded as a self-portrait by Credi, the suggestion that it might be by Perugino seems to have been suggested first in 1932 (by Richard Offner). Perugino knew Credi exceedingly well, as the two had trained and worked together in Verrocchio's Florentine studio. In 1488 – the date in the inscription – Verrocchio died and Credi inherited his studio and much of his property.
Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. Wood, 60 x 42.
The figure of the penitent saint, praying before a crucifix hung high on a tree, is very similar to that of the Saint Jerome by Perugino at Hampton Court. Behind, on the left, one sees an affectionate meeting between the young Christ and the Baptist, the two with hands on one another's shoulders. Previously considered an early work of Perugino himself (allegedly showing the influence of Pintoricchio), it is now generally given to his studio or a follower (Andrea d’Assisi?). From the Sebright collection at Beechwood Hall, Hertfordshire; acquired by Kress (through Contini-Bonacossi) in 1937.
Williamstown (Mass.). Clark Art Institute.
*Pietà. Wood (transferred to fabric), 93 x 72.
The dead Christ is supported on the edge of the tomb by the turbaned Nicodemus; Joseph of Arimathea on the right. Signed on the front of the sarcophagus. This richly coloured picture probably dates from the middle or late 1490s. It is first recorded in 1838 in the collection of Conte Bernardino degli Algarotti at Venice; and was later in the collections of Lord Taunton at Stoke Park, London, and Mrs Edward Stanley at Quantock Lodge, Bridgewater, Somerset. It entered the Clark collection in 1914.