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The Sienese School

1250-1640

      

Examples of Sienese painting (click to Enlarge)

From its vantage point high in the Tuscan hills, Sienna was exceptionally well placed to become one of the greatest artistic centers of medieval Europe. Throughout the Middle Ages, Italian art was largely traditional, sticking to the techniques and style established by the Byzantine Church.  Sienese artists for the most part, left Byzantine conventions behind and were leading the way towards the Renaissance, although some Byzantine flavor lingered in Sienese painting.
 

The Sienese are the first lyrical painters of modern art.  As they imparted to their pictures a orderly and elegant element and a splendor of color and gilding that recall Byzantine art, so also their work reflects the wealth of  ecstatic feeling that had come into their world through St. Francis.
 
While Byzantine art is stormy and rigid, Sienese painting is  youthful, lovely, and graceful. The prevailing characteristic being slender, supple grace. It seems as if the stone vaults of the churches had suddenly become transparent, and the eyes gazed upwards towards heaven, where tender ethereal beings, singing and praising the Highest, lived in eternal youth and lovingly gazed down upon mankind. In his great Madonna of the Cathedral Duccio gave first impulse. This Mary is no linger sever and dignified, but mild and gracious, as if she has had  pity upon the longing soul of the believer; for a soft dreamy melancholy transfigures her features.  Her relation to the Child also is changed; she is no longer the involuntary mother of God, but a tender mother. Duccio explored in his own art a new world of emotion and passion, but with a lyricism and sensitivity to color that became the foundation of Sienese painting.
 
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the gentle poet, painted the Virgin Mary tenderly pressing her cheek ageist the Childs face, and giving nourishment to Him; motherly and yet maidenly, proud and yet modest.
 
Taddeo di Bartolo broke more completely with the Byzantine past. His paintings exhibit a new spirit of realism. He forms his figures with shadows to give them a roundness not found in Duccio and the impression of solid weight that walks on real earth.
 
13th and 14th century Sienese paintings are incredibly mystical, and completely enchanting. Sienese School artists were innovative and  produced works of great beauty and wonder.  The style is distinct and clearly different from the more solemn Early Renaissance art produced in Florence.  The unique  style was  influenced by French Gothic and inspired by oriental and Byzantine elements.

In the Spring 1348 the Black Death was spreading quickly throughout the Italian countryside.  In Siena the plague wiped out 80,000 people in just  seven months.  Many Sienese  painters, including the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti perished.

Early Sienese painters created  magnificent paintings for the Civic Museum inside the Palazzo Pubblico overlooking the Piazza del Campo. The Palazzo Pubblico was built in the early 1300s by the Government of Nove. It is a masterpiece of medieval urban architecture. In the Great Council Hall there are extraordinary frescoes by Simone Martini depicting a beautiful Maestΰ and next door, in the Hall of Nine there is the amazing fresco cycle by Ambrogio Lorenzetti showing the Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government.

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List of Sienese School Artists

1250–1300
 Duccio di Buoninsegna  founder of the Sienese School
Guido da Siena
Coppo di Marcovaldo

1301–1350
 Barna da Siena
 Pietro Lorenzetti
Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Ugolino Lorenzetti
Lippo Memmi
Segna di Buonaventure
Simone Martini

1351–1400
Taddeo di Bartolo
Bartolo di Fredi
Spinello Aretino
Andrea Vanni

1401–1450
Giovani di Paolo
Pietro di Giovanni d'Ambrogio
Sassetta

1451–1500
Sano di Pietro
Matteo di Giovanni
Neroccio dei Landi

1501–1550
Ddomenco Beccafumi
Sodoma

1601–1640
Ventura Salimbeni

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