PintoricchioBernardino di Benedetto (Betto or Betti), called Il Pintoricchio or Pinturicchio (‘The Little Painter’) because of his small stature. His early life is obscure. He was born in Perugia in about 1454 (if Vasari’s statement that he was 59 when he died is reliable). He probably received his first training from a Perugian artist of the previous generation, such as Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo or the miniaturist Giapeco Caporali (Bartolomeo's brother, who ran a workshop near Pintoricchio's father's house at Porta Sant'Angelo). He worked in Perugino’s studio for a time (taking a third of the profits according to Vasari), and Perugino’s influence remained strong throughout his career. Modern critics have seen his hand in several small panels securely dateable to about 1473 (from a series of eight in the Perugia Gallery illustrating the miracles of San Bernardino of Siena). But there are no documented works earlier than 1481. In that year he joined the painters’ guild in Perugia.
Unlike other leading central Italian painters (Piero della Francesca, Perugino, Signorelli and Raphael), Pintoricchio seems never to have worked in Florence. He was frequently employed at Rome – working with Perugino in the Sistine Chapel (1481-82); undertaking as his first important independent commission the decoration of a chapel in the Aracoeli (about 1482-85); painting in the Belvedere for Pope Innocent VII (1487); decorating the Vatican apartments of Alexander VI (1492-94/5); frescoing rooms of the Castel Sant’Angelo with grotteschi and scenes from Pope Alexander’s life (1497; largely destroyed soon after they were painted); and enjoying the patronage of the della Rovere and Colonna families. He was also active in his native Perugia, and at Orvieto (1492 and 1496), Spoleto (1497), Spello (1501 and 1508) and Siena (from 1503), where he spent most of the last eleven years of his life. He died on 11 December 1513 in Siena (of hunger, according to one contemporary source, when his wife deserted him in his illness) and was buried in the church of SS. Vincenzo ed Anastasio (now the Oratorio della Contrada dell’Istrice).
With his almost constant employment on fresco projects, Pintoricchio painted relatively few panel paintings – half-dozen or so large altarpieces and some small (often repetitive) Madonnas and other devotional pictures. A number of panel portraits have been ascribed to him, but only one or two are now generally accepted. To expedite his vast commissions, he employed many assistants and collaborators, including Matteo Balducci (a painter from Fontignano who assisted him in Rome according to Vasari and left some paintings in Siena), Antonio da Viterbo (who worked in the Borgia Apartments), Giovanni Battista Caporali (who collaborated on the Assumption now in the Vatican), Eusebio da San Giorgio (who collaborated on an altarpiece for Sant’Andrea in Spello), and the Sienese painters Girolamo del Pacchia and Giacomo Pacchiarotto. Around 1503, the young Raphael assisted him with designs for the decoration of the Piccolomini Library in Siena and possibly also for the Vatican Assumption.
Pintoricchio was judged very harshly by Vasari, who says that he was lucky rather than talented and was liked by princes and lords because he always delivered works on time even if they were not as good as they might be. But his frescoes have considerable narrative charm and much of Perugino’s feeling for arrangement and space. The major examples are in the Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral and the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican. Brilliantly coloured, with lavish use of gold and costly ultramarine, and ornamented with grotteschi motifs and heraldic devices, these are as decorative as the pages of an illuminated book. The scenes are full of fairy-tale pageantry. Princely youths, liveried courtiers, fair ladies in gorgeous costumes and ecclesiastics in sumptuous robes are posed against romantic landscapes with wooded hills and Gothic castles. While never accepted as a great artist by serious critics, Pintoricchio was all the rage in the early twentieth century, when even inferior or damaged paintings attributed to him were bought for huge prices by American collectors.
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery.
St Jerome in the Wilderness. Wood, 150 x 106.
The penitent saint is shown outside the mouth of a cave, kneeling before a crucifix tied to a small tree and holding a stone with which to beat his breast. In the foreground are his inevitable lion, his cardinal's hat, a tiny scorpion and (at the base of the tree) a large lizard. Inscribed in the open book are quotations from an apocryphal letter of St Augustine drawing parallels between the lives of St Jerome and John the Baptist (‘One a virgin, the other a hermit, leading a hard life in regard to clothing and food, each a martyr, one by the sword, the other by endorsement of adversities’). The largish panel is close in style to the small St Christopher of the Borghese Gallery, and attributed to Pintoricchio as a very early work of about 1478-80. Acquired by Henry Walters in 1916 (through Bernard Berenson) from the Florentine dealer Luigi Grassi. It previously belonged to a Signora Bartoccini of Perugia.
Madonna and Child with St Jerome. Canvas (transferred from panel), 50 x 38.
The Child, on the Virgin’s lap, writes in a book, holding an inkpot in his other hand. Behind St Jerome, in a cardinal’s hat and scarlet robes, is a clump of trees with the sun breaking through; to the right, a panoramic view of a river valley. This charming little panel was once considered the work of an imitator, and was ascribed by Berenson (1932-68 Lists) only to Pintoricchio’s workshop. It is now fully accepted as an autograph picture. Dated ‘shortly after 1495’ by Carli (1960), but considered an early work by more recent writers. Acquired in 1821 with the Solly collection.
Boston. Gardner Museum.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 30 x 25.
Similar in composition to the central panel of the Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece (commissioned in 1495 and now in the Perugia Gallery) and to small Madonnas by Pintoricchio at Cambridge (Fitzwilliam), San Marino (Huntington Library) and elsewhere. The tiny panel is in poor condition (much of the original paint is lost and the extensive gilt ornament is mainly restoration) and its authenticity was once doubted (eg. by Adolfo Venturi in his Storia Dell’Arte Italiana). Bought by Bernard Berenson ‘for little’ from the dealer Constantini of Florence, and sold by him (as Pintoricchio’s ‘most exquisite Madonna’) to Mrs Gardner in 1901 for £4,000.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Virgin and Child with St Jerome. Wood, 53 x 39.
Formerly considered a work of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, an older Perugian contemporary of Pintoricchio. Alternatively attributed now to Pintoricchio as a very early work (about 1475-80). Exceptionally well preserved (though the Virgin’s blue mantle has darkened almost to black). Early in the twentieth century, the picture belonged to a Signore Bacchettoni, Mayor of the Umbrian town of San Gemini, who was then living in Rome. Acquired by Duveen Brothers of New York in 1917 (as a work of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo), and donated to the museum in 1920 by Mrs W. Scott Fitz of Boston.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum.
Madonna with the Infant St John. Wood, 57 x 41.
In the background, a mountainous landscape full of tiny details. The minute figures outside the city walls on the right could possibly represent the meeting of Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate. On the left are soldiers with dogs. Close in style and design to the Virgin and Child in the polyptych at Perugia (commissioned in 1495). A similar basic design recurs in Madonnas by Pintoricchio (or his workshop) at Boston (Gardner Museum), Oxford (Ashmolean) San Marino (Huntington Library) and elsewhere. Given to the museum in 1880 by the Cambridge alumnus and book collector Samuel Sandars, who had acquired it in Italy.
Cambridge (Mass.). Fogg Museum.
Holy Family with the Infant St John. Wood, 53 x 39.
Gravely damaged, little of the original picture surface remaining. Purchased by the Fogg Museum in 1910 from Ulrich Jaeger of Genoa, who had acquired it in Valencia. It probably dates from the 1490s when Pintoricchio was working for the Borgias (who were Spanish). The little St John is almost identical with the St John in the Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece (commissioned in 1495). While the attribution seems never to have been questioned, the picture has been largely ignored for many years because of its sorry condition.
Città di Castello. Museo del Duomo.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood.
The Virgin supports the Child, standing on her knee, and holds up his hand in benediction. The little St John clutches a Bible to his breast and holds a scroll with the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei. This type of composition was often repeated by Pintoricchio and his workshop (eg. in the Madonnas in the National Gallery, London, and at Trevi). The little panel has been damaged by an old attempt at cleaning, and its condition makes it hard to determine whether, or how far, it was executed by Pintoricchio himself. Scarpellini and Silvestrelli (2004) call it a late work, ‘perhaps only partly autograph’. From the sacristy of the Duomo. There is allegedly an oral tradition that the panel belonged to Pintoricchio’s widow Grania, who lived in Città di Castello before her death. Restored in 2018.
Cleveland (Ohio). Museum of Art.
Madonna and Child in a Landscape. Wood (transferred to a new panel), 46 x 34.
The landscape background of this little panel is rich in miniature detail. On the left, an idealised town stands on a river. A boat is moored at a quay. On the right, St George slays the dragon and the rescued princess prays. A cavalcade (the Magi?) passes through a gorge and huntsmen chase a boar. Probably a comparatively late work, painted during the early part of Pintoricchio’s stay in Siena (after 1502). It is severely damaged (and not unfinished as once supposed). The removal of repaint in 1962 revealed that, as well as general abrasion, the entire layer of blue paint on the Virgin’s mantle had been lost. (It is likely that, in the distant past, the expensive blue azurite had been deliberately scrapped off for re-use.) The picture was subsequently put into storage for almost thirty years, and only returned to public view after another restoration (with extensive inpainting) in 1989. Purchased by the Cleveland philanthropist Elisabeth Severance (Mrs Dudley Allen and later Mrs Francis Prentiss) in 1915 and bequeathed to the museum in 1944. There is a similar picture in the Honolulu Academy (Kress Collection).
Denver. Art Museum.
Madonna and Child. Wood (transferred to masonite), 59 x 40.
The composition, with the Child standing on a parapet blessing, is very common in Umbrian painting of this time. The picture has sometimes been attributed to Pintoricchio, as a comparatively early work of about 1485, and sometimes to Perugino’s school (or specifically Andrea d’Assisi, one of Perugino’s Umbrian followers). Once owned by a Major Curtis of Langford Hall, Newark. Sold at Christie’s in 1937 (as a work of Perugino), acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1943, and given to the Denver Museum in 1951.
Portrait of a Boy. Wood, 50 x 35.
The earliest record of this delightful portrait of a youth with long hair, red cap and tunic is in an inventory of 1722, where it is listed as a portrait of the young Raphael by an unknown artist. It was later ascribed to Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi, or to the young Raphael himself. The attribution to Pintoricchio was made in 1864 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. It was long accepted (eg. by Berenson in his Lists to 1968); but an attribution to the rather shadowy Andrea d’Assisi is now sometimes preferred. (Andrea, known as L’Ingegno, is recorded with praise by Vasari as a pupil of Perugino, but none of his works have been identified with absolute certainty.)
Honolulu (Hawaii). Academy of Art.
Madonna and Child with a Goldfinch. Wood, 45 x 35.
The tiny figure of St Jerome is shown to the left of the Child, and the Procession of the Magi appears high up on the cliff. The picture is almost a replica, in both figures and landscape, of the Madonna at Cleveland and was probably executed by Pintoricchio’s workshop. Though commonly dated to the early 1490s, it might be later. First recorded only in 1932, when it was sold at Sotheby’s. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress (via Contini Bonacossi) in 1938, and allocated to Honolulu in 1952.
Houston. Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation.
‘Madonna del Latte’. Wood, 29 x 22.
In the right background, a triumphal arch with the Martyrdom of St Sebastian; on the left, John the Baptist in the Wilderness. Dated 1492. This tiny panel, very like the page of an illuminated book, is somewhat restored. Formerly in the collection of Prince Pio di Savoia (Falcò) at Mombello, near Como. Sold at Christie's, London, in 1966. A larger variant (59 x 44), once owned by the Austrian artist Philipp Schumacher, was acquired by the Fondazione Casa di Risparmio di Perugia in 2007 at an auction in Vienna.
London. National Gallery.
*Ulysses and Penelope. Fresco (transferred to canvas), 123 x 152.
Penelope, sitting at her loom, is surprised by the suitors as she is undoing the shroud she was weaving for Laertes. Ulysses, dressed as a beggar, enters through the door on the right. Above Penelope’s head hangs the bow that her suitors could not bend but was bent by Ulysses. The man with the hawk is presumably one of her suitors. Through the window are seen Ulysses’ ship (surrounded by sirens, the hero bound to the mast) and, on a headland to the left, the palace of Circe, the sorceress who changed men into swine. Much damaged, the surface crumbly in appearance. One of two frescoes painted by Pintoricchio in about 1509 for a room in the palazzo of the despot Pandolfo Petrucci (Palazzo del Magnifico) at Siena. (The Petrucci arms appear on Ulysses’ ship and Circe’s castle, and Penelope is dressed in the Petrucci colours of blue and gold.) Together with two frescoes by Signorelli (also now in the National Gallery), it was detached from the wall in 1844 for Joly de Bammeville of Paris. It was subsequently acquired by Alexander Barker of London, at whose sale it was bought by the National Gallery in 1874 for 2,050 gns. Pintoricchio’s other fresco is thought to have represented the Continence of Scipio; it is assumed lost, but there is a compositional drawing for it in the British Museum.
Virgin and Child Blessing (no. 703). Wood, 54 x 36.
The Virgin, viewed through a fictitious stone frame or window, gently supports the Child, who stands in benediction on the parapet. Usually considered one of Pintoricchio’s very earliest works (1470s), though it has also been dated to the 1480s or even 1490s. Trimmed at the top and much repainted. The coat-of-arms, centre bottom, has not been identified. First recorded in 1815, when it was sold in Paris. It was among the collection of ‘primitives’ belonging to Prince Louis of Ottingen Wallerstein which was accepted by Prince Albert in 1847 as security for a loan. The loan was not repaid, and the best of the pictures were presented to the National Gallery by Queen Victoria in 1863. There is another version (identical in composition but only broadly brushed-in) in the gallery at Trevi.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria with a Donor. Wood, 57 x 38.
The saint, shown against a gold cloth of honour, is easily identified by her martyr’s crown, book (symbolising her wisdom), sword (with which she was executed) and wheel (on which she was tortured). A tonsured cleric kneels in profile on the right. It has been suggested recently that the donor could be Jacopo Pesaro, who was appointed Bishop of Paphos in 1495 by Pope Alexander VI. (Jacopo Pesaro is represented as a somewhat older man in Titian's Jacopo Pesaro presented by Alexander VI to St Peter (Antwerp Museum) and as a still older man in Titian's Pesaro Madonna (Frari, Venice).) Bequeathed by Lieut.-General Sir William Moore in 1862. Relegated for years to the reserve collection in the basement and rather neglected, it was cleaned before being loaned to the 2008 Pintoricchio exhibition in Perugia. Called a late work by Scarpellini and Silvestrelli (2004), but dated to the mid-1490s by Tom Henry (2008).
Virgin and Child under a Rose Garland (no. 2483). Wood, 48 x 37.
The Child, holding a crystal orb, stands on a carpeted parapet in a composition recalling the Virgin with the Standing Child by Verrocchio or his workshop at Berlin. This well-preserved panel has always been attributed by the National Gallery to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. When it entered the gallery in 1910 with the Salting bequest of early Italian paintings, Roger Fry remarked in the Burlington Magazine on its similarity to Pintoricchio’s work, but a definite attribution to Pintoricchio was not made until Berenson’s 1932 Lists. The attribution won only limited support at the time. But it has been revived, and the panel was presented in the 2008 Pintoricchio exhibition at Perugia as a very early work of the artist, possibly painted in collaboration with his putative master Bartolomeo Caporali. George Salting acquired the picture in 1898. Its earlier history is unknown.
Massa (Carrara). Cathedral.
Virgin and Child enthroned with Angels. Detached fresco.
The fresco is from the church of Santa Maria del Popolo at Rome. It is a fragment of a cycle painted for the chapel of Cardinal Lorenzo Cybo de Mari, a nephew of Pope Innocent VIII. The cycle was destroyed in 1682-7, when the chapel (second in the right aisle) was redesigned by the Baroque architect Carlo Fontana for Cardinal Aldelano Cybo. The Virgin and Child was saved and sent to Massa – the Cybo family's ancestral seat. It was installed in the Cathedral as the altarpiece of the Cappella Ducale.
Madonna and Child with Donor. Wood, 85 x 66.
The Virgin is seated, under heads of cherubim, in a flowery meadow; lower left is a profile portrait of the donor holding his cap; and in the rocky landscape to the left is a battle between a Saracen knight and two Italian foot soldiers, with unidentified coat-of-arms on their shields. This little known picture is attributed to Pintoricchio and his workshop. Recently restored.
Milan. Museo Poldi Pezzoli.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 80 in dia.
The Christ Child holds the end of a gold ribbon, attached to St John’s cross and bearing the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei. In the left background, the Procession of the Magi; on the right, the Flight into Egypt. This tondo may date from the 1490s and was probably executed partly by an assistant. It was among the collection of Emilio Visconti Venosta (the famous Risorgimento statesman), which was bequeathed to the museum by his daughter-in-law Marquise Margherita Visconti Venosta in 1973. The panel, made from a single plank of wood, has bowed considerably and a crack runs horizontally through the middle.
Assumption of the Virgin. Wood, 278 x 173.
The fifth apostle on the left is said to be a self-portrait. A late work of the early 1500s. The composition seems likely to have been inspired by Perugino’s lost fresco on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. (The youthful Pintoricchio may have worked on the fresco himself.) Pintoricchio's picture is also clearly related to Perugino's roughly contemporary Assumption painted for the high altar of Naples Cathedral. The execution has sometimes been ascribed to assistants (perhaps Eusebio da San Giorgio and Giovan Battista Caporali), though the quality appears higher since restoration in 1985. Commissioned by the wealthy Catalan banker and merchant Paolo Tolosa for his chapel in the left transept of the church of Monteoliveto (now Sant'Anna dei Lombardi) at Naples. The altarpiece was seen in situ by Vasari (1568). It entered the Bourbon collection in 1802 from the Galleria di Francavilla at Naples.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery.
Madonna and Child with Saints. Wood, 43 x 33.
The Child sits on a marble block decorated with a classical relief of a marine subject. St Jerome on the left, St Francis on the right. The composition of the Madonna and Child repeats that of the very damaged Madonna degli Alberelli in the Perugia Gallery. The panel has been attributed to Pintoricchio as a work of the 1490s, but may rather be a product of his Roman workshop or following. Formerly in the Boston collection of Quincy Shaw, and given to the Yale Gallery by Hannah D. and Louis M. Rabinowitz in 1959.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Ceiling from the Palazzo del Magnifico.
Twenty-two fresco panels, transferred to canvas, set into ornamental mouldings cast from the originals. The central part shows four putti surrounding the Petrucci arms. The ceiling comes from a room, the Camera Bella, in the Palazzo del Magnifico at Siena. The palazzo (in the Piazza San Giovanni, close to the Baptistery) was bought by Pandolfo Petrucci from the Accarigi family after his triumphant return from exile in 1503, and was extended in 1504-8. The Camera Bella (6.75 x 5.15 x 6.3 metres) was high up in the palazzo, overlooking the Via dei Pellegrini. The walls originally had frescoes by Pintoricchio, Signorelli and Girolamo Genga, three of which are now in the National Gallery, London, and two in the gallery at Siena; some majolica tiles from the floor are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The ceiling remained in situ until 1912. It was bought by the museum in 1914 from Herbert Horne, an English art historian living in Florence. The frescoes are usually thought to have been designed by Pintoricchio but executed mainly or wholly by his workshop. They have all suffered considerable paint loss.
New York. Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 36 x 26.
Of the half-dozen or so panel portraits that have been attributed to Pintoricchio by Berenson and other critics, this small bust if a youth (nearly full-face, wearing a scarlet tunic and cap) is probably the one that is most commonly still accepted as by him. On the strength of a resemblance to a young man standing on the right of the fresco of the Funeral of San Bernardino in the Bufalini Chapel in Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome, it has been tentatively suggested that the sitter could be the young Giovan Pietro Bufalini (born around 1461-62), the eldest son of Niccolò di Manno Bufalini who commissioned the decoration of the chapel. Once in a French collection and later with the Kleinberger Gallery, it was bequeathed to the museum in 1934 by Colonel Michael Friedsam. Previously little known, it was included in the 2008 Pintoricchio exhibition at Perugia. It appears to be much restored.
Orvieto. Cathedral. Choir.
Right wall: Frescoes around circular window.
In June 1492 Pintoricchio was commissioned to paint two Evangelists (Luke and Mark) and two Doctors of the Church (Ambrose and Gregory) in the choir of the Cathedral and to restore the fourteenth-century frescoes there by Ugolino di Prete Ilario. His fee was one hundred ducats. After quarrelling with the cathedral authorities over the amount of gold and ultramarine he was using, Pintoricchio left the work half finished, returning to Rome to work for the new Pope Alexander VI. He did not return to Orvieto to complete the work until March 1496, receiving final payment on 5 November. Only two of the four figures remain, one showing St Mark enthroned among angels in a mandorla of cherubim and (below) St Ambrose or St Gregory writing at a desk. Their execution is normally ascribed, in part at least, to Pintoricchio’s workshop.
Oxford. Ashmolean Museum.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 40 x 26.
One of a number of small Madonnas more or less closely related in composition to the central panel of the Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece (others are in the Gardner Museum (Boston), Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), Fogg Museum (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and the Huntington Library (San Marino)). Though rather neglected in the literature on Pintoricchio (eg. Enzo Carli’s 1960 monograph and Francesco Mancini’s 2007 monograph both fail to mention it), the attribution has never been in doubt. Bequeathed in 1899 by Charles Fortnum, who had acquired it in Italy in 1864. Worn in places and the Virgin’s blue mantle is repainted, but the faces are in a fair state.
Madonna and Child with Two Saints. Wood, 59 x 41.
Gregory the Great, on the right, wears a papal tiara and a dove whispers in his ear. The saint on the left has been called Jerome or Andrew. The design of the Madonna and Child (the reading Child reversed) repeats that of the Madonna and Child with St Jerome in Berlin. Ascribed to Pintoricchio himself by some writers, but by others to his workshop or following. Scarpellini (2004) and Mancini (2007) see the hand of a ‘Roman collaborator’. Acquired by the French state in 1861 with the massive Campana collection of early Italian paintings (most of which are now housed in the Musée du Petit Palais at Avignon).
Perugia. Galleria Nazionale.
*Polyptych. Wood, 512 x 314.
Central panel: Madonna in an ornamental niche; the Child holds a pomegranate in one hand and clasps a slender jewelled cross, held by the infant St John, in the other. Side panels: full-length figures of St Augustine (with pastoral staff and heart of fire or apple) and St Jerome (holding a model of a church, which resembles the Pantheon in Rome). Above them two smaller side panels of the Virgin and Angel of the Annunciation. Top panel: the Dead Christ supported by two Angels. The predella (canvas on a wooden support) has scenes of St Jerome in the Desert and St Augustine and the Child by the Seashore and half-length figures of the Four Evangelists in roundels; the centre panel, which represented the Baptism of Christ, is lost. The original frame was carved by Mattia di Tommaso da Reggio and is almost perfectly preserved. This is Pintoricchio’s largest altarpiece. It was painted, for the considerable price of 110 florins, for the high altar of the church of the Augustinian Canons, Santa Maria dei Fossi (now Sant’Anna), at Perugia. The contract was signed on 14 February 1495. It stipulated that the altarpiece should be delivered within two years, but there is no evidence as to when it was actually completed. The predella differs from that specified in the contract, which was to include the Pope (Alexander VI) and cardinals, as well as SS. Baldo and Bernardino and other figures. It has been suggested that the existing predella panels were substituted for the original ones after the death of the notorious Borgia Pope in 1503. Their execution has been ascribed (by Pietro Scarpellini) to Eusebio da San Giorgio. Apart from the predella, the altarpiece is of uniformly high quality and appears to be almost entirely by Pintoricchio's own hand. It was dismembered by 1784 and the panels placed in the choir. It was reassembled in 1863.
Standard of Saint Augustine. Silk, 104 x 72.
A gonfalone (processional banner) painted between July 1499 and April 1500 for the Confraternita di Sant’Agostino at Perugia. The saint is shown with two members of the flagellant confraternity, with their coats-of-arms below. Painted in tempera on silk and well preserved. Presented to the gallery in 1868 by Silvestro Friggeri Boldrini.
‘Madonna degli Alberetti’. Wood, 51 x 40.
The picture takes its name from the two trees at the sides. Extremely damaged: much of the paint surface is lost, including part of the Child’s head and much of the Virgin’s body. The Child was probably holding either a book or a bird (as in a replica in the Yale University Art Gallery at New Haven). Doubted by Carli (1960), but otherwise generally accepted as an early work of Pintoricchio. From the collection of Mariano Guardabassi (1880).
Miracles of St Bernardino. Wood, each 76 x 57.
These eight panels (one dated 1473), from the ‘Niche of San Bernardino’ in the church of San Francesco al Prato, are considered to have been the work of several different painters, perhaps collaborating in the Perugian worksop of Bartolomeo Caporali. The scenes most commonly attributed to the youthful Pintoricchio are the Resurrection of a Dead Man found under a Tree and the Freeing of a Prisoner. PIntoricchio is also sometimes thought to have had a hand in the Healing of a Blind Man and the Curing of the Daughter of Giovanni Antonio Petrazio da Rieti. Alternative attributions have been made to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and (particularly for the last scene) the young Perugino. The other four panels are of lower quality, and have been attributed recently to lesser known Perugian artists. Two have been given to the miniaturist Pierantonio di Niccolô del Pocciolo and two to Sante di Apollonio del Celandro.
Perugia. Palazzo dei Priori. Sala del Consiglio (or della Consulta). 1st floor.
Madonna and Child. Fresco in lunette.
The Madonna and Child, half-length in a mandorla of cherubs' heads, are flanked by two angels. In 1486 Pintoricchio was paid eleven florins for painting this lunette over the entrance to the dormitory of the Palazzo dei Priori. The fresco was detached from the wall, transferred to canvas and installed over the pietra serena doorway to the Sala del Consiglio on the first floor. It is very damaged. Some conservation treatment was carried out in 2019.
Perugia. Palazzo Baldeschi. Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 55 x 41.
In the landscape to the left, the small figure of the young John the Baptist in the wilderness. This little panel, formerly in a private Austrian collection, was auctioned at the Dorotheum, Vienna, in 2007, when it was bought by the savings bank for €380,000. It was in quite poor condition (badly cleaned and with two cracks running vertically through the panel) and was restored after its acquisition. A variant at Houston (Blaffer Foundation) is dated 1492.
The Palazzo Baldeschi, on the Corso Vannucci, is open only for special exhibitions.
Perugia. Fondazione Guglielmo Giordano (Villa Spinola).
Christ Child Blessing. Fresco, 49 x 34.
This fresco fragment was formerly in the Palazzo Chigi at Rome, where it is recorded in 1693 (along with another fragment representing the head of the Virgin Mary). It was published as a work of Pintoricchio in Corrado Ricci's 1912 monograph on the painter, but remained largely unknown until comparatively recently. The fragment, previously linked with Pintoricchio's lost frescoes in the cloister of Santa Maria del Popolo, is now believed to have been cut from a fresco painted in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican. The composition of the fresco – which showed Pope Alexander VI kneeling before the Virgin and taking the hand of the Child – is recorded in an old copy made by the Mantuan painter Pietro Facchetti. It is conjectured that the fresco was removed during the reign (1655-67) of the Chigi Pope, Alexander VII, who could have salvaged the fragments of the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary for his family collection, while destroying the figure of his infamous predecessor Alexander VI. The Christ Child fragment was acquired by the Fondazione Giordano in 2004. It is not on permanent display, but has been widely exhibited in Italy and abroad. The Virgin Mary fragment is now in a private collection in Switzerland. The two fragments were shown together in an exhibition held in May-September 2017 at the Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Perugia (San Martino in Colle). Church of the Madonna del Feltro.
‘La Madonna del Feltre’. Detached frescoed lunette.
The Madonna sits in a landscape, flanked by flying angels. A fragmentary and damaged fresco (about half its original extent) from a venerated roadside sanctuary in the tiny village of San Martino in Colle. When the chapel collapsed, the fresco was detached and controversially restored. It was attributed to Pintoricchio in 1989 (by Filippo Todini in the October Giornale dell’Arte). It has been dated around 1498-1503, when Pintoricchio spent much of his time in or around Perugia.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Collection).
Madonna and Child Reading. Wood, 61 x 42.
There is a similar, but smaller picture (in which the reading Child stands on a parapet rather than a stool) at Raleigh (North Carolina). The landscape background (with the Flight into Egypt on the left and John the Baptist’s retreat into the Wilderness on the right) is especially fine in the Philadelphia version. Formerly in the collection of the Earl of Northesk; sold at Sotheby in 1915 (as School of Perugino) and purchased by Johnson in the same year from the art historian Langton Douglas. Critics have sometimes seen the participation of an assistant.
Princeton. University Art Museum.
Saint Bartholomew. Wood, 60 x 51.
The apostle, shown three-quarter length against a green curtain patterned with gold crosses, reverently reads a book and holds the knife with which he was flayed. Gold has been used for the halo and the hilt and pommel of the knife, and silver has been used for the knife blade. This fine devotional panel might date from the middle or late 1490s. It was acquired by the museum in 1994 from French & Co. of New York. The museum subsequently acknowledged the ownership of the picture by the heirs of Gentili di Giuseppe, a Jewish resident of Paris, whose collection was auctioned by the French government in 1941 during the German occupation. An agreement reached in 2001 compensated Gentili's heirs and enabled the museum to keep the picture.
Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art.
Virgin and Child reading a Book. Wood, 34 x 25.
This little panel and the larger variant at Philadelphia probably date from the 1490s. Somewhat worn and restored, it has sometimes been ascribed to Pintoricchio’s workshop, but allowance should be made for its condition. The picture is first recorded only in 1902, when it was owned Conte Camillo Borgia-Mandolini of Perugia. It was acquired soon afterwards by Count Grégoire Stroganoff, the cosmopolitan Russian connoisseur and collector. After the Russian Revolution, the contents of the Palazzo Stroganoff in Rome were sold off by the family's heirs, and Pintoricchio Madonna passed into the hands of the Florentine dealer Luigi Grassi. Bought by Samuel H. Kress in 1929 from Contini Bonacossi, and allotted to Raleigh in 1960.
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
Coronation of the Virgin. Canvas (transferred from panel), 330 x 200.
The Virgin is crowned between two music-playing angels; on the ground below, Franciscan saints (Francis, Bernardino, Anthony of Padua, Louis of Toulouse and Bonaventura) kneel in the foreground among the twelve apostles. Commissioned by Observant Franciscans for the high altar of their church of Santa Maria della Pietà at Castel della Fratta (today Umbertide, some 30 km north of Perugia). The contract was signed on 17 December 1502. The altarpiece may have been delivered by 27 June 1503 (when most of the money was paid) and was certainly completed by October 1505 (when the balance was settled). The fee of 100 ducats was met by a certain Alessandra di Costanzo, a widow of Perugia. Payments were made both to Pintoricchio and Giovanni Battista Caporali, implying that Caporali had a substantial share in the work. It has been suggested, on the evidence of drawings, that Raphael contributed to the design. The picture entered the Vatican Pinacoteca during the pontificate of Leo XII (1823-29). It originally had a predella, with Nativity scenes and portraits of Alessandra di Costanza and her son. It seems to have survived until the mid-nineteenth century, but none of the panels from it has been traced.
Madonna. Detached fresco, 105 x 87.
Possibly the Madonna which Vasari says Pintoricchio painted over the main door of the Belvedere Palace. Probably about 1490.
Rome. Vatican. Borgia Apartments.
These six rooms, on the first floor of the palace built by Nicholas V, are named after the second Borgia Pope, the notorious Alexander VI, who converted them for his personal use and had them decorated by Pintoricchio and his assistants. The work is thought to have started in November 1492, shortly after Alexander VI was elected. It must have been finished in little over two years; for in January 1495 the Pope fled the Vatican as Charles VIII’s troops invaded.
The rooms were abandoned as papal apartments by Julius II in 1507 out of hatred for the Borgias, and were shut up for centuries. The frescoes were heavily repainted in 1816, when the new Vatican Pinacoteca was established in the rooms, and large areas were again repainted in 1889-97 by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Ludwig Seitz. A modern restoration was completed in 1987, and the frescoes were cleaned again in 2013. The rooms now form part of the Vatican’s Gallery of Modern Religious Art.
*Sala dei Misteri. Frescoes: New Testament Subjects.
This is believed to have been the Borgia Pope’s dining room. Much of the decoration was executed by Pintoricchio’s assistants, the most active of whom may have been Antonio da Viterbo (Pastura). The subjects on the walls are the Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection (with the famous portrait of Alexander VI), the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Assumption (with a portrait of a donor, possibly Francesco Borgia, the Pope’s brother). In the ceiling are Evangelists and Prophets. Restoration of the Resurrection in 2013 revealed, in the background above the sepulchre, a mysterious group of naked men cavorting in feathered headdresses. An intriguing suggestion is that these strange figures could be depictions, based on descriptions in Columbus's travel journel, of Native Americans dancing.
*Sala dei Santi. Frescoes: Legends of the Saints.
Pintoricchio’s own hand is most evident in the frescoes in this room. The scenes on the walls are: the Martyrdom of St Sebastian (the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill in the background); Susannah and the Elders (in the background Daniel intervenes to save Susanna from execution and the elders are stoned to death); Episodes from the Life of St Barbara (in the foreground she escapes the tower and meets St Julian the shepherd); St Catherine Disputing with the Philosophers before the Emperor (with alleged portraits of Lucrezia Borgia or Giulia Farnese as St Catherine, Prince Djem as the mounted turbaned Oriental, Andrea Paleologos in Greek dress standing by the Emperor, Antonio da Sangallo, holding an architect’s square, and Pintoricchio himself on the left); the Meeting of Anthony Abbot and Paul the Hermit (the two saints are seated together in the wilderness breaking a loaf of bread; on the left are three female temptresses); and the Visitation (St Elizabeth greets the Virgin; Zachariah, her husband, stands reading in the portico on the right, surrounded by women spinning and sewing). The saints depicted in these scenes may represent the seven Virtues: Faith (Anthony); Hope (Elizabeth); Charity (Paul); Prudence (Catherine); Fortitude (Barbara); Justice (Susanna); and Temperance (Sebastian).
The ceiling is frescoed with scenes from the myths of Isis, Osiris and the Egyptian bull-god Apis. The four scenes on the first vault are: the Marriage of Isis and Osiris; Osiris teaches Ploughing; Osiris teaches Viticulture; and Osiris teaches Fruiticulture. The four scenes on the second vault are: the Assassination of Osiris; Isis gathers the Body Parts of Osiris; the Appearance of the Apis Bull; and the Procession of Apis. This is thought to be the first Renaissance depiction of Egyptian myths. The bull was a Borgia emblem, which must help account for the extraordinarily novel choice of subject. The heraldic Borgia bull and double crown is constantly repeated in the decorative borders. The five octagons on the underside of the central arch illustrate the myth of Jupiter seducing Io and turning her into a white heifer.
The frescoed Madonna in the tondo over the door leading to the Sala dei Misteri is said by Vasari to be a portrait of Giulia Farnese (Alexander VI's mistress).
Sala delle Arti Liberali. Frescoes: Allegorical Female Figures.
The room was furnished as Alexander VI’s study. The frescoes may have been executed mainly by Antonio da Viterbo. In the eight lunettes are enthroned women representing the Liberal Arts: Astronomy; Grammar; Dialectics; Rhetoric (with Pintoricchio’s signature on the base of the throne); Geometry (in which Euclid, measuring with his compasses, is said to be a portrait of Bramante); Arithmetic; and Music.
The decoration in the Sala del Credo (with twelve lunettes of the Apostles holding scrolls with sentences of the Creed) and the Sala delle Sibille (with twelve lunettes of sibyls and prophets) is attributed wholly to Pintoricchio’s assistants, while the Sala dei Pontefici was redecorated under Leo X by Giovanni da Udine and Perino del Vaga.
Rome. Vatican. Sistine Chapel.
Frescoes: Journey of Moses (335 x 540); Baptism of Christ (335 x 540).
These two scenes are sometimes described as works of Perugino, sometimes as works of Pintoricchio, sometimes as works of collaboration between Perugino and Pintoricchio, and sometimes as works of collaboration between Perugino and other assistants (Andrea d'Assisi and/or Rocco Zoppo?). Before the mid-nineteenth century, Pintoricchio's name had never been associated with the frescoes. Vasari says merely that Pintoricchio 'was working in Rome in the time of Pope Sixtus and assisting Pietro Perugino', and does not specifically mention his working in the Sistine Chapel. It was late nineteenth-century connoisseurship (as practised by Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Morelli and Berenson) that first attributed the frescoes, wholly or partly, to PIntoricchio, acting as Perugino's assistant or collaborator. Art historians, more than a hundred years later, continue to disgree sharply over the likely extent of his participation. Even those historians that see Pintoricchio's hand in large parts of the two frescoes often accept that Perugino was responsible for the overall design of the scenes. If the frescoes are classed as Pintoricchio’s, they would be his earliest important works (1481-82).
Rome. Vatican Museum. Gallery of the Statues.
Vasari says that in 1484 Pope Innocent VIII commissioned Pintoricchio to paint some halls and loggias in the Belvedere Palace, including a loggia with landscapes in the Flemish manner depicting Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Venice and Naples. The decoration was whitewashed when the loggia was converted into the Gallery of the Statues, but some remains of frescoes were uncovered in the 1930s, including some Putti in lunettes. The decoration seems to have been finished in 1487, since this date is inscribed several times on the ceiling.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Crucifixion with St Jerome and St Christopher. Wood, 50 x 40.
In its original frame, and possibly part of a small portable altarpiece. This beautiful little panel, showing St Christopher fording the river with the Child on his shoulders, was once attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (a similar figure of St Christopher appears, in reverse, in the artist’s Madonna and Child with SS. Christopher and Sebastian at Berlin). Now commonly given to Pintoricchio as one of his earliest works (mid-1470s?). Berenson (1968) saw it as a very early work of Perugino; while Lawrence Kanter (2002), noting similarities with the Sistine Chapel fresco of the Testament of Moses, has proposed an attribution to Signorelli with a dating of 1481-82. First recorded in 1806 in the collection of Agostino Mariotti of Rome; acquired by the Borghese in 1838.
Rome. Palazzo dei Penitenzieri.
Ceiling of the Demigods.
The palazzo, which now lodges the priests who hear confessions in St Peter’s, was built for Domenico della Rovere, Cardinal of San Clemente, and decorated by Pintoricchio and his assistants. Little of the decoration has survived apart from this magnificent ceiling. The octagonal coffers contain 63 paintings on paper of allegories and mythological creatures, including tritons and centaurs fighting, a putto riding two sea horses, a naked woman (Fortune?) riding a dolphin, sirens, a winged stag drinking from a cornucopia, a basilisk, a griffon, and a sphinx playing with a dragon. On one of the beams is the date 1490. The ceiling paintings, previously almost obliterated, were restored in 1962.
Rome. Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Bufalini Chapel.
*Frescoes: Life and Death of Saint Bernardino.
The little Gothic chapel is just to the right of the entrance door.
The fresco on the altar wall shows the Glorification of St Bernardino. The saint is crowned by angels beneath a vision of Christ in glory. He points towards heaven, and holds an open book inscribed with the words ('Father reveal thy name to all') friars were singing when he died. St Louis of Toulouse stands on the left (wearing a richly brocaded cope embroidered with figures of saints) and St Anthony of Padua stands on the right (holding a book in one hand and a flame in the other). In the landscape to the left, there is a small scene showing Bernardino effecting a reconciliation between the feuding Bufalini family of Città di Castello (the chapel's patrons) and the Baglioni family of Perugia. In the centre distance, there is another small scene, showing Bernardino preaching from a wooden pulpit and exhorting citizens to pitch their luxuries into a bonfire.
There are two main scenes on the right wall. That to the left of the window shows the Investiture of St Bernardino. The saint, having cast off his scarlet robes, kneels in prayer to receive the monastic habit of the Franciscans. To the right of the window, St Francis receives the Stigmata. Under the window, a group of men (possibly the prior of the convent and others connected with the Aracoeli) are shown in discussion. A small grisaille putto holds an axe and a shield with the Bufalini crest (a buffalo head).
The scene in the lunette of the left wall has been called St Bernardino in Meditation. The penitent young saint, dressed in sackcloth, studies the Bible, while the population of Siena gaze at him with reverence. The large rectangular fresco below shows the Funeral of St Bernardino. His body is exposed on a bier in a great piazza. The mass of people present include a cripple, a blind man dressed as a pilgrim, portraits of several members of the Bufalini family, and perhaps also portraits of friars at the Aracoeli. The baby in a crib in the foreground is the Santo Bambino, the Aracoeli’s famous miraculous doll (which was stolen in 1994 and never recovered).
The Four Evangelists on the ceiling of the chapel are rather damaged.
The frescoes were painted for Niccolò di Manno Bufalini (about 1430-1506), who is portrayed in a roundel above the Investiture scene and also appears with his son (or a page) to the left of the bier in the Funeral scene. The frescoes are not documented, but they are generally agreed to be early works of Pintoricchio. They are likely to have been commissioned during the papacy of the Franciscan pope Sixtus IV, who, shortly before his death in 1484, elevated Niccolò Bufalini to the important office of consistorial lawyer. Rarely for Pintoricchio, the frescoes (including the monochrome grotteschi decoration framing the scenes) appear to be very largely by his own hand.
The frescoes, which had been affected by damp, were restored in the early nineteenth century by the neoclassical painter Vincenzo Camuccini. There were modern restorations in 1955-56 and again in 1981-82.
Rome. Santa Maria del Popolo.
Cappella di San Girolamo (1st chapel right of the entrance): Frescoes.
As the inscription above the altar states, the little chapel was dedicated to St Jerome and the Virgin by Cardinal Domenico della Rovere; it is the burial place of Cardinal Cristoforo della Rovere (died 1478), Domenico’s brother and a nephew of Pope Sixtus. Over the altar is the Nativity and in five lunettes (very worn and restored and hard to see without electric light) are scenes from the Life of St Jerome. With the exception of the Nativity, the frescoes are reckoned by modern critics to be largely by assistants. The grotteschi decoration on the pilasters – evidently inspired by the ancient paintings newly discovered in the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) on the Palatine Hill – is one of the first examples of such decoration in a church. The frescoes are mentioned by Vasari but undocumented. A wide range of datings have been proposed, including 1477-79 (after building work on the church is thought to have been completed), about 1483 (after the Sistine Chapel frescoes) and 1488-90 (when Pintoricchio was probably working on the decoration of Cardinal Domenico della Rovere’s Roman mansion, the present-day Palazzo dei Penitenzieri).
The frescoes by Pintoricchio, also mentioned by Vasari, in the next (Cybo) chapel were replaced by Baroque ornamentation in 1682-87. A fragment, representing the Virgin and Child enthroned with Angels, is preserved in the Cathedral at Massa (Carrara).
The frescoes of the Life of the Virgin (1504-7) in the Basso della Rovere Chapel (3rd on the south side) and of the Doctors of the Church (1489) in the Costa Chapel (4th) are attributed to Pintoricchio’s school.
*Choir: Ceiling Frescoes.
The Coronation of the Virgin, in a central octagon, is surrounded by Four Reclining Sibyls, the Four Evangelists and, in the corners, the Doctors of the Church. All are painted on a mosaic gold background and framed in rich grotteschi decoration. The frescoes were painted when the choir was being modelled in 1505-10. Pintoricchio worked as part of a team that included the architect Donato Bramante, the sculptor Andrea Sansovino and the stained-glass worker Guillaume de Marcillat. The frescoes are Pintoricchio’s last major work in Rome and are almost perfectly preserved. His main assistant was probably Giovanni Battista Caporali.
San Gimignano. Museo Civico.
*Madonna in Glory. Wood, 282 x 198.
The Virgin is seated in a mandorla adorned with cherubs’ heads. Below kneel St Gregory the Great (dressed in sumptuous pontifical robes with small figures of saints embroidered on his cope and his tiara on the ground) and St Benedict (wearing the white habit of the Order he founded). The picture, which retains its original frame carved by the Olivetan friar Giovanni da Verona, is one of Pintoricchio’s last works. It was ordered on 23 October 1510 for the church of Monteoliveto in Barbiano, near San Gimigiano. The last payment was made on 9 November 1511. The contract stipulated that the altarpiece should include the figure of the Blessed (now Saint) Bernardo Tolomei (founder of the Olivetan Benedictines), but he was substituted by St Gregory for some (perhaps political or diplomatic) reason. It has been claimed that St Gregory is a portrait of the contemporary Pope Julius II. The altarpiece was transferred to the museum in 1867.
San Marino (California). Huntington Library and Art Gallery.
Madonna and Child in Landscape. Wood, 48 x 38.
A replica, on a much smaller scale, of the Madonna and Child from the altarpiece commissioned in 1495 for Santa Maria dei Fossi and now in the Perugia Gallery. Formerly owned by Baron Michele Lazzaroni, an aristocratic Roman collector, dealer, restorer and forger based in Paris. Acquired in 1926.
San Severino Marche. Pinacoteca.
*‘Madonna della Pace’. Wood, 143 x 70.
The Child, standing on a cushion on the Virgin's knee, holds a crystal orb in one hand and with the other blesses the donor Liberato Bartelli, who kneels on the right. Two praying angels stand behind, and in the left background a company of soldiers passes under a rock arch. In the lunette, the Eternal Father appears in a mandorla of cherubs' heads. Liberato Bartelli held important positions in Rome during the time of Innocent VIII, including those of Apostolic Protonotary and Canon of Santa Maria in Trastevere. This little altarpiece was formerly in the sacristy of the Duomo Nuovo of Sant’Agostino at San Severino, and was presumably painted in 1488-89 when Bartelli was Prior. It is one of Pintoricchio’s finest panel paintings. It is also one of the best preserved (there were restorations in 1933 and 2009).
Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Holy Family. Wood, 85 in dia.
Mary and Joseph sit side by side in a flowery meadow. He holds a loaf and a small barrel, presumably alluding to the bread and wine of the Eucharist. The infant Christ and St John wander away arm-in-arm, inclining their heads back towards Mary and Joseph. In the distance to the right is St Jerome in prayer and to the left St Anthony of Padua. This charming tondo is a relatively late (rather Raphaelesque) work of about 1504-8. It has been suggested that it was executed at least partly by Pintoricchio’s Sienese collaborator Giacomo Pacchiarotti, but cleaning in 2005 has shown it to be a work of fine quality. It came from the Franciscan convent of San Girolamo in Campansi, whence it was transferred to the Instituto di Belle Arti during the Napoleonic suppressions. The presence of St Jerome and St Anthony suggest that it might have been painted for a nun at the convent – possibly Laura Bichi, whose sister Eustochia commissioned Signorelli’s altarpiece for the family chapel in Sant’Agostino. The ornamental gilded papier mâché frame is original.
Virgin and Child with Infant St John (‘Madonna della Melagrana’). Wood, 55 x 41.
From the Conservatorio di Santa Maria Maddalena at Siena. The composition, like that of so many Madonnas by Pintoricchio and his workshop, is based on the centre panel of the Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece. Late and probably only partly autograph.
**Frescoes illustrating the Life of Pope Pius II.
The Libreria was built by Cardinal Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini, Archbishop of Siena, for the books that his uncle, Pius II, had left him. On 29 June 1502 he contracted Pintoricchio to paint ‘the life of the Holy Memory of Pope Pius’. Pintoricchio was to execute himself the cartoons for all the scenes, paint the heads with his own hand in fresco, and do ‘all the retouching necessary ‘to bring the work to his usual quality of finish’. He was paid 1,000 gold ducats and provided with a house near the cathedral. Work does not seem to have started until April 1503, when Pintoricchio returned from Perugia, and was interrupted by the death of Francesco (as Pius III) in October. It continued thereafter in fits and starts, and last payment was not made until 18 January 1509. The ten scenes of Pius II’s life start from the end window on the right with his setting out as a twenty-six year old in 1431 for the Council of Basle, and end on the opposite wall with his arrival at Ancona in 1464 to bless the crusade. Pintoricchio’s assistants in this huge undertaking included Matteo Balducci, Giovanni Francesco Ciambella, Eusebio da San Giorgo, Girolamo del Paccia and Giacomo Pacchiarotto. Vasari’s testimony that the young Raphael assisted Pintoricchio by making drawings and cartoons was once dismissed as ‘absurd’ (Morelli); but several drawings for the first five scenes (including preparatory studies in the Uffizi and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and finished modelli in the Uffizi and the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) are now generally attributed to Raphael. The mythological scenes and grotteschi decoration on the ceiling were inspired by the vault of the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House), recently unearthed beneath the Baths of Trajan. (The first recorded use of the word grottesco is in the 1502 contract for the frescoes.)
In the lunette over the entrance to the Libreria is a fresco of the Coronation of Pius III. This cannot have been part of the original contract (since Pius was not elected until September 1503) and does not seem to have been completed until 1508 (when the scaffolding was taken down).
Cappella di San Giovanni.
*Frescoes: Portraits of Alberto Aringhieri and a Knight of St John; Life of the Baptist.
The chapel, in the left transept, was built and decorated between 1482 and 1504 to house a precious relic of the right hand and arm of St John the Baptist. The patron, Alberto Aringhieri, was Operaio (head of works) of the Cathedral and a member of the knightly Order of St John of Jerusalem. Pintoricchio painted eight frescoes in the chapel – two portraits and six scenes from the Life of the Baptist. He probably began work in late 1503 or early 1504, during a break from his labours in the Piccolomini Library, and received payments for the frescoes between August 1504 and February 1506. The two portraits – one either side of the entrance – show an elderly man and a young man kneeling as donors. The elderly man, to the right, wearing the robes of a Knight of St John, is clearly Alberto Aringhieri. The island of Rhodes, the Knights' Mediterranean stronghold, is shown in the background. The young man, to the left, wearing the armour of a Knight of St John, has been thought to represent Aringhieri, again, at a younger age. Another, perhaps more likely possibility, is that the young knight is a portrait of Aringhieri's son Luzio, who was also a Knight of St John. The first of Pintoricchio's scenes from the Baptist's Life – that representing the Visitation – was replaced in 1868 by Cesare Maccari's John the Baptist in Prison. Two other scenes – the Baptism of Christ and Beheading of the Baptist – were repainted in 1616 by Vincenzo Rustici. The remaining three scenes are the Birth of the Baptist (to the left of Donatello's bronze statue) and John the Baptist in the Wilderness and John the Baptist Preaching (on the entrance wall, above the two portraits).
Inlaid Marble Floor: Allegory of Fortune.
In the fourth section of the pavement as we walk up the nave (usually covered). Above, Socrates receives the palm of Wisdom, while Crates casts jewels into the sea. Below, Fortune stands with one foot on a globe and the other on a boat, while a company of pilgrims climb a rocky path. Pintoricchio was paid for the design on 13 March 1505. The execution was by Paolo Mannucci. This section of the pavement was restored, and some of the marble replaced, in 1859.
Spello. Santa Maria Maggiore.
*Cappella Baglioni. Frescoes.
On the left wall: the Annunciation. In an inset marble frame in the lower right-hand corner is a self-portrait of the artist with his name on a plaque beneath. A brush, pen and stylus hang from the string of beads attached to the plaque, while the shelf above supports a bottle of ink, a candle and several books (one of which is legibly inscribed with a prayer). The date 1501 is given on a pilaster.
On the middle wall: the Adoration of the Shepherds. The entourage of the Three Kings is seen to the left. The armed man standing beside the white horse could be a portrait of Gian Paolo Baglioni, the condottiere and Lord of Perugia. Mounted knights and foot soldiers skirmish on the rocky hillside behind, while the towers and spires of Spello are visible in the centre distance.
On the right wall: the Dispute in the Temple. As in Perugino's famous fresco of the Giving of the Keys in the Sistine Chapel, the scene is set in a great paved piazza with a domed octagonal temple in the centre. The figure on the extreme left, in dark robes and biretta, is plausibly identified as Troilo Baglioni, protonotary and prior of the church, who commissioned the frescoes. The man standing next to him, holding a bag of money, is probably Pietro di Ercolano Ugolini, the treasurer of the church.
In the four triangles of the ceiling: the Tiburtine, Erythraean, European and Samian Sibyls. They are seated on classical thrones and flanked by texts of their prophesies.
The paintings were executed in tempera as well as true fresco, and made lavish use of gilding. While the participation of assistants has been detected in some areas (particularly the ceiling), the frescoes appear to be mainly by Pintoricchio's own hand. They had fallen into neglect by the mid-nineteenth century, as described by the British diplomat and collector Henry Layard. (‘The plaster loosened by damp is peeling off, and the colours have lost their brilliancy. The frescoes on the roof are fast disappearing.’) The paintings were restored in 1885 and again in 1976-77 and 2017-19, and now appear in excellent condition.
Cappella del Sacramento. Frescoes.
An Angel is frescoed over a stone washbasin and a Madonna and Child over the altar of the tiny sacristy off to the right. Probably painted in 1501-02, around the time of the frescoes in the Baglioni Chapel. Much repainted.
Spello. Sant’Andrea Apostolo.
*Madonna and Saints. Wood, 318 x 257.
To the left stand St Andrew and St Louis of Toulouse in prayer; to the right St Francis and St Lawrence with the gridiron. On the small table in front of the child St John is a legible letter dated 24 April 1508. It is from Gentile Baglioni and summons Pintoricchio to return to Siena where he is wanted by Pandolfo Petrucci. The picture was commissioned for the main altar of the Franciscan church on 16 April 1506. In March 1507 Pintoricchio, who had already drawn the outlines of his composition on the panel, delegated the execution to his fellow Perugian Eusebio da San Giorgio, who was to follow his drawings (lodged with a certain Tommaso Corbo of Spello). Pintoricchio undertook to paint only the heads of the principal figures. Of the fee of 160 ducats, 100 went to Eusebio. Another Perugian painter, Giovan Francesco Ciambella (called Il Fantasia), was paid on 3 September 1510 for gilding the elaborate frame, which is now unfortunately lost. A medallion of the Redeemer Blessing from the top of the frame is still preserved in the church. Restored in 1979. The church was closed following earthquake damage in 1997 and reopened in 2008.
Spoleto. Cathedral. 1st chapel on right of entrance.
The chapel, dedicated to St Leonard, was frescoed by Pintoricchio in 1497 for Cardinal Constanino Eroli, Bishop of Spoleto. In the curved niche behind the altar: the Madonna and Child between St John the Baptist and St Leonard; the Eternal Father above in the semi-dome; and the Pietà on the front of the altar. The figures of St Leonard and the dead Christ appear to have been borrowed from Perugino’s Pala dei Decemviri (painted the previous year for the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia and now divided between the Vatican and the Perugia Gallery). The decoration of the vault, now largely lost, includes a monochrome scene of the Triumph of Constantine inspired by a relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The frescoes (restored at the beginning of the twentieth century and again in 1937) have been badly damaged by damp. Much of the execution was apparently done a secco (ie. on dry plaster), and only those parts in true fresco have survived.
Stresa. Isola Bella. Borromeo Collection.
Christ carrying the Cross. Wood, 51 x 43.
This miniature panel is usually thought to be Pintoricchio’s last known work. The cartellino on the arabesque border states that it was painted in Siena in 1513, which was the last year of his life. However, it has been suggested that the style of the picture is closer to Pintoricchio’s work of the 1490s and that the date may have been changed.
Trevi. Pinacoteca (Chiesa di San Francesco).
Madonna and Child Blessing. Wood, 49 x 38.
Another version of the picture in the National Gallery, London. Ascribed to an imitator at one time, but now regarded as an autograph very early work (1470s). It appears to be quite unfinished. However it is possible that it was never intended to be more than a working sketch – or full-sized modello from which other versions were produced. A recent restoration has treated two horizontal cracks running along the joins in the panel.
Valencia. Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes.
Madonna and Child with Donor. Wood, 157 x 78.
The standing Madonna teaches the Child to read, with an ecclesiastical donor in adoration. The painting comes from Jativa (Xativa), the native city of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI). It hung in the Borgia Chapel in the Colegiata (church of Santa Maria). The family's coat-of-arms is on the stool on which the Child stands. The donor, kneeling in prayer with a mitre on the ground beside him, is usually identified as Francesco Borgia (Francisco de Borja), who was the seventh of ten 'cardinal-nephews' created by Alexander VI. The picture may date from around 1495, when Francesco was made Bishop of Teano. Before restoration, there was a tendency to ascribe the execution to Pintoricchio’s workshop or to a Spanish follower, but the removal of old repaint and discoloured varnish helped reveal the picture's quality. Donated by Francisco Llácer to the Academia de San Carlos in 1818.
Warsaw. Muzeum Narodowe.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood, 50 x 40.
Roman ruins on the right. The motif of the Christ Child taking the cross from the infant St John symbolises his future Passion. A replica of the central group of the altarpiece commissioned in 1495 for Santa Maria dei Fossi and now in the Perugia Gallery. Acquired in 1862, within months of the establishment of the museum, at the auction of the collection of Johann Peter Wayer in Cologne.