The Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral: a new reading with particular reference to two compartments of the vault decoration

May, Susan (2005) The Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral: a new reading with particular reference to two compartments of the vault decoration. Renaissance Studies, 19 (3). pp. 287-324. ISSN 0269-0213

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The murals of the Piccolomini Library in Siena Cathedral, featuring episodes from the life of Pope Pius II, are usually discussed as distinctly separate from the vault imagery, predominantly all’antica and mythological scenes. The latter, combined with the centrally-placed, antique statue of The Three Graces, has led some authors to comment on the library’s overtly ‘pagan’ content as shockingly incongruent with its setting in the sacred precincts of the duomo. Little attention is paid to the significance of the stucco relief above the entrance, The Expulsion from Paradise. The article proposes that such a prestigious project for so powerful and erudite a patron as Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, and painted by the highly acclaimed artist Pinturicchio, is unlikely to have been devised without careful attention to its iconographical programme. Focussing primarily on the two largest compartments of the vault, it is demonstrated that the four principal figures there should be interpreted as representatives of the four temperaments. By defining their relationship as such to the Expulsion from Paradise relief and to the historical narratives on the walls, this article shows that the mythological scenes in the vault play an allegorical role within the broader scheme and that a coherent programme underpins the entire decoration, with the writings of Saint Augustine and of his fifteenth century followers at its core.

Item Type: Article
4 November 2004Accepted
June 2005Published
Subjects: CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-02 - philosophy and religious studies > CAH20-02-02 - theology and religious studies
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Susan May
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2017 16:47
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:50

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