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Piccolomini Library, Siena

In Sandra's recent entry about Spello, she mentioned the "Early Renaissance painter, Pinturicchio -- whose real name was Bernardino di Betto (ca. 1452-1513)."

Immediately my mind shifted back to my two visits to Siena, where I had the great pleasure of gazing upon the brilliant frescos by Pinturicchio (1502-07) depicting the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Bishop of Siena then Pope Pius II, in the Piccolomini Library.

Pinturicchio was commissioned to paint the library by Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini (aka Pope Pius III) in homage to his uncle Enea Silvio Piccolomini (aka Pope Pius II).

A quote from this website says it all:

The interior of the Library offers the observer an unforgettable spectacle. Many on entering the Library have tried to describe the room, permeated by such luminosity and richness of colour as to result unparalleled.
Indeed, Pintoricchio managed to describe the life and vicissitudes of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, portraying them with the colours of a beautiful and magic fairy tale.

Amazingly, one is allowed to take photos (no flash) in the library, so here are mine.

Ceiling detail:

Enea Silvio goes to the council of Basle. According to Wikipedia, the storm scene in the background is a first in western art.

Left: He presents himself as envoy to James II of Scotland
Right: He is crowned as poet by Frederick III:


He is sent by the Emperor to Eugenius IV, where he makes an act of submission:

Left: As Bishop of Siena, he is present at the meeting in 1451 of the Emperor Frederick and his betrothed Eleonora of Portugal outside the Porta Camollia
Right: Enea Silvio is made Cardinal by Calixtus III in 1456:


A closer look at Frederick meeting his bride to be, Eleonora:

And of Enea Silvio receiving his Cardinal's hat:

As Pope Pius II, he proclaims a crusade at Mantua:

He arrives in Ancona to launch the crusade. I have also read somewhere that he arrives dying in this panel:

After looking at these photos again, I think I may have to make another daytrip to Siena when I'm in Florence this October (yes, I just love saying when I'm in Florence this October!!) Maybe even an overnight, I keep reading that Siena is incredible in the evenings.

Comments (5)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Anne, I loved the story telling of the paintings in the library's interior.

Lucky you to be going to Florence in October! I spent 5 days in Siena with my friend in 2005 and really enjoyed it. Hope you get to visit.

Thanks for posting your wonderful photos.

Love love love those photos and the paintings! Just gorgeous. I'd like to see those someday. And how exciting to think about you seeing them again in person in a few months!


Anne, those are wonderful photos. I love the Piccolomini Library, it's like a perfect little jewel box. The frescos are amazing.

I hope you do get to go back to Siena when you're in Florence in the fall. I've stayed twice in Siena for several days and it really is fantastic at night -- the tour buses are gone, the streets are shadowy and quiet. You can almost imagine Medici enforcers lurking in the shadows.

Gorgeous photos! The quote you posted perfectly describes what one sees on the frescoes: the richness of color and a beautiful and magic fairy tale. I briefly visited Siena seven years ago with time only to see the campo and visit the house of St. Catherine of Siena. I'll be sure not to miss the library on my next trip to Siena.

Wow, I just love those photos! I have spent 5 weeks in Siena (3 weeks/2 weeks) studying Italian. Siena is definitely quite different once the tour buses leave. I think that is a great idea to spend the night and prices should be a little cheaper in the fall.

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