I've been homesick for Perugia recently. The capital city of Italy's Umbria province is, to me, extremely cool. Many layers of history, fascinating sites, great food, and a lot of wonderful art. I'm especially interested in Renaissance art, and while there is a great deal of that in Perugia, there's one very small spot that is a favourite.
The Collegio del Cambio -- the original office of Perugia's powerful money-changers -- is so jam-packed with frescos by the master Perugino (with a little help from his students, including a teenaged Raphael) that they almost threaten to overwhelm a visitor. Particularly, because the space is so small.
Remarkably, this exquisite jewel-box of a sight doesn't seem to draw much attention. This amazes me -- not only is it exquisite, but it is so easily accessible and visitor friendly! It is tucked inside the imposing Palazzo dei Priori set right smack on Perugia's main street, the Corso Vanucci, a sweeping pedestrian mall named for the great artist (Perugino's real name was, and I suppose, still is, Vannucci.)
The Collegio itself is so small, really just two rooms, that even a day tripper or a visitor popping up to the historic centre of Perugia for lunch, could stop in for 30 minutes or so and have an amazing experience!
Guidebook writer Ian Campbell Ross has argued that the Cambio is perhaps the best surviving example in Umbria of Renaissance humanist culture, and one of the best examples of Perugino's harmonious art. That is to say, Perugino confidently fused Christian and pagan cultures in these frescos that decorate the sala dell’Udienza, or the audience chamber of the money-changers.
Perugino had earlier became famous for his frescos in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, particularly one depicting Christ giving the Keys of the Church to St. Peter. (The Sistine Chapel isn't entirely Michelangelo!)
Perugino was then hired for this gig by Perugia's money-changers guild and began work in about 1498. In the Collegio frescos, he brought together images representing the four Cardinal Virtues - Prudence, Justice, Strength and Temperance - using figures taken from Greek and Roman history; with the three Theological Virtues - Faith, Hope and Charity - represented by the Transfiguration of Christ, the Nativity and the Prophets and the Sibyls.
On the ceiling, he painted the seven planets on carts being drawn across the skies by various animals.
Fans of Raphael might want to keep an eye an out for the figure of Fortitude, seated on a cloud in the second bay of the left wall. According to Frommer's, art historians attribute this figure to the 17-year-old Raphael, who lived and worked some years in Perugia. Frommer's also suggests that Perugino used Raphael's face as the model for the prophet Daniel, which can be seen on the right wall.
By the way, the second photo is a Perugino I really like, but is not in Perugia. It's by Perugino and Filippino Lippi, The Deposition from the Cross and is found in the Galleria dell' Accademia, Florence.