Dress and its significance in the decorative mural cycle of the Piccolomini Library (1502-8), Siena Cathedral

May, Susan (2018) Dress and its significance in the decorative mural cycle of the Piccolomini Library (1502-8), Siena Cathedral. In: Culture, Costume and Dress: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference, 10-12 May 2017. Gold Word Publishing, e-book, pp. 55-64. ISBN 978-1-909379-26-8

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Opening directly off the massive, romanesque interior of Siena cathedral, the renaissance Piccolomini Library shimmers like a bejewelled casket. Its vault and walls are enlivened with intricate, colourful frescoes by Bernardino Pinturicchio and his workshop. The main component of the painted scheme is a commemoration of the life of the patron’s uncle, Pope Pius II (1458-64), presented in ten, large narrative murals. In keeping with early-renaissance naturalism, great attention is paid to the careful depiction of contemporary dress. Focusing on a small selection of the murals, the aims of this paper are to examine the various modes of sartorial elegance represented there and to consider the role that dress plays in communicating meaning within the decorative programme. Using visual analysis in combination with studies of the history of dress, local Sienese socio-economic context, papal politics and the dynastic agenda, it is demonstrated that the representation of costume plays an important part in the frescoes. It underscores the role of rhetoric, and in particular epideictic oratory, in the mural scheme, elucidates attitudes to local sumptuary laws, and reinforces the celebratory crescendo with which the narrative of Pius’s life closes. It will be shown, moreover, that this culminating triumphalist message is rather more optimistic than was actually the case!

Item Type: Book Section
June 2017Accepted
February 2018Published Online
Subjects: CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of Art and Design
Depositing User: Susan May
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2018 11:27
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:45
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5641

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