The Piccolomini Library in the Siena Cathedral was begun in 1492. It was commisioned by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini ( what a mouthful) and intended to house the extensive collection of books belonging to his uncle Pope Pius II.
Visitors enter through the impressive bronze gate, made in 1497 by Antonio Ormanni.
After the dimly lit church the first thing you notice is the light and the exquisite colours of the frescoes which are in original condition. Pinturicchio and his assistants painted the ceiling between 1502 and 1503. It is divided into panels containing representations of mythical subjects, bordered wth geometrical motifs and gilt studs in relief.
In 1507 Pinturicchio finished the 10 scenes on the walls, illustrating the glorious events of the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pope Pius II.
The ceramic floor is decorated with half moons on a blue background – the emblem of the Piccolomini family. Piccolomini means little men. I guess they were short. They clearly had taste and a lot of money.
Lining the walls in glass cases are some of the library’s books, open to display the gorgeous pages.
In the middle of the room is a Roman copy from a Greek painting of The Three Graces, as if there wasn’t enough good stuff in here already.
Pintoriccchio means little painter. His name was actually Bernadino di Betto di Biagio, Betti for short. He had another nickname – the silent one – for he was deaf.
One of his assistants was the young Raphael and they became friends. One of Pintoricchio’s signatures was to put himself in his pictures. He can be recognised by his red beret and multicoloured tights of green, red and blue. Next to him could be seen Raphael, who wore a black hat and red tights – a couple of very stylish gentlemen I am sure. I discovered this after my last visit (thank you Sandra H), so I will go Pintoricchio spotting next time I go.
Don’t miss the Piccolomini Library!!!
I’ve been back to Siena already and I think I spotted Pinturicchio and Raphael!