Siena's Cathedral

Museo dell’Opera

Museo dell’Opera

The Cathedral in a Museum

The masterpieces of Duccio di Buoninsegna – his Maestà altarpiece and his superb Stained-Glass Rose Window – the sculptures of Giovanni Pisano, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia, precious silk fabrics, sophisticated examples of the goldsmith's and jeweller's art and extremely rare illuminated manuscripts and codices: the museum's collections comprise all of this and much more.

As you tour the Cathedral's museum complex, you will eventually come into the north aisle of the so-called "New Cathedral". This now houses the Museo dell'Opera, one of the oldest private museums in Italy.

The museum was founded in 1869 and earned the approval of the Education Ministry in an era that witnessed the accomplishment of numerous large-scale projects. The building housing the museum is of immense interest in itself, occupying the first three (now bricked-up) bays of the south aisle of the "New Cathedral", on which construction began in 1339 but was broken off after the Black Death of 1348.

Giovanni Pisano, Miriam, sister of Moses


GROUND
FLOOR

The ground-floor rooms host a major collection of 14th century Sienese statuary from the Cathedral façade, the first design for which was the work of Giovanni Pisano. The splendid marble statues depicting Sibyls, Prophets and Philosophers of Antiquity, which Pisano carved while holding the post of master-builder (1285–7), vibrate with the artist's new style of sculpture, coming alive with a Gothic realism and dynamism that pulsates with spiritual energy.

The large Stained-glass rose window made by Duccio di Buoninsegna to fill the round "oculus" opening above the Cathedral's chancel between 1287 and 1290, has been installed at the end of the room.

>The room also contains two important works by 15th century artists: a bas-relief depicting the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Cardinal Casini by Jacopo della Quercia (1437–8) from the Chapel of St. Sebastian in the Cathedral, and Donatello's tondo, a celebrated work depicting the Madonna and Child with Four Cherubs and known as the 'Madonna del Perdono' (c. 1458) from the original altar of the Madonna delle Grazie in the Cathedral.

The large Stained-glass rose window made by Duccio di Buoninsegna to fill the round "oculus" opening above the Cathedral's chancel between 1287 and 1290, has been installed at the end of the room.

Jacopo della Quercia, Madonna and Child, St Antony the Abbot and Cardinal Antonio Casini

Donatello,
Madonna and Child, known as the "Madonna del Perdono"

The Statue Gallery

Measuring fully six metres in diameter, the window contains three stories from the life of the Virgin – the Burial, the Assumption and the Coronation – in its three superimposed central registers, while on either side of the central panel we find depictions of Siena's four patron saints, St. Bartholomew, St. Ansanus, St. Crescentius and St. Sabinus.

The intense blues of the background, the golden yellows, the ruby reds, the amethyst purples and the emerald greens of the figures' clothing and drapery combine with the delicate pink chosen for their flesh to form an extraordinarily dazzling array of colours.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Assumption

FIRST
FLOOR

A temperature-controlled room on the first floor of the Museum is home to the magnificent altarpiece known as the Maestà of Duccio di Buoninsegna, the true jewel in the collection's crown and an undisputed masterpiece of early 14th century Italian art.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Madonna and Child Enthroned

The altarpiece, which Duccio painted from 1308 to 1311, was visible from both sides and is one of the most prodigious artistic undertakings of all time, if we consider that it contains over forty figures on the front and almost eighty in the stories on the back, on the predellas and on the cusps. The panel on the front side depicts the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels and Saints while the back, which is divided up into twenty-six different scenes, recounts the story of the Passion of Christ. The same room also contains a panel depicting the Birth of the Virgin painted by Pietro Lorenzetti in 1342 for the former alter of St. Sabinus in the Cathedral.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Entry into Jerusalem

The rooms adjacent to the Room of the Maestà house a rich and prestigious collection of wooden sculptures and illuminated manuscript codices. The statues of Mourners carved by Domenico di Niccolò dei Cori between 1414 and 1415 and the Madonna and Saints carved by Jacopo della Quercia between 1415 and 1420 are of outstanding quality, while a set of cases in the room houses several of the Cathedral's numerous codices illuminated by artists of the calibre of Lippo Vanni, Sano di Pietro and Benvenuto di Giovanni.

Jacopo della Quercia, Madonna and Child with Saints

Benvenuto di Giovanni, Creation of stars

Treasury

We now move on to the Treasury with its over two hundred objects associated with the sacred liturgy. Its rich collection of chalices includes a superbly enamelled cup made by Goro di Ser Neroccio in the 15th century. Reliquaries are also here.

Reliquiario del braccio di San Giovanni

The stars of its splendid collection of reliquaries are the Reliquary of San Galgano, made towards the end of the 13th century and one of the most important examples of Sienese goldsmith's art, and the Reliquary of the Arm of St. John the Baptist commissioned by Pope Pius II from Francesco d'Antonio in 1466 to house a relic given to him by the Despot of Morea, Thomas Paleologus. The rare and extremely beautiful cruets from the Chapel of the "Madonna del Voto" in Siena Cathedral are made of rock crystal mounted in silver embellished with translucent enamels. Commissioned by Pope Alexander VII Chigi in the mid-17th century, these cruets may be considered masterpieces of the goldsmith's art on account of both their highly sophisticated engraving and decoration and of the craftsman's perfect mastery of his technique. Another product of Chigi patronage is the splendid Golden Rose designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and donated to Siena Cathedral by Alexander VII in 1658.

Goro di ser Neroccio, Chalice

Reliquary for St Galganus head

Golden Rose

TOP
FLOOR

The top floor comprises three main rooms hosting a rich collection of paintings on wood and on canvas depicting religious themes and originally painted for the Cathedral between the 13th and 19th centuries.

Maestro di Tressa,
Madonna of Large Eyes

The first room contains a collection of chiefly gold-ground paintings, including in particular the Madonna of the Large Eyes, one of the oldest paintings of the Sienese school, painted by the Master of Tressa in the second quarter of the 13th century. The people of Siena offered up a prayer before this picture, entrusting the safety of their city to the Virgin, before the battle of Montaperti on 4 September 1260 (which they went on to win). It is also worthwhile highlighting Gregorio di Cecco's large polyptych with the Madonna of Humility and Saints (1423) from the Altar of the Visitation in the Cathedral and the two large panel paintings depicting St. Bernardino Preaching painted by Sano di Pietro in the 1440s.

Gregorio di Cecco, Madonna of Humility and Saints

Sano di Pietro, St Bernardine preaching in Piazza del Campo

Alfieri Room

The second room, known as the Alfieri Room, contains Matteo di Giovanni's two extremely fine altarpieces depicting the Madonna Enthroned with St. Anthony and St. Bernardino (1460) from the Baptistry and the Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints and Angels (1480) from the Celsi Altar in the Cathedral. One of the most original works on display in this room is a panel painting depicting St. Paul Enthroned painted by Domenico Beccafumi in 1516, together with an elegant pair of polychrome terracotta statues of the Announcing Angel and the Virgin Annunciate which the artist modelled in circa 1545.

Matteo di Giovanni,
Madonna and Child Enthroned with St Anthony and St Bernardine

Domenico Beccafumi,
St Paul Enthroned

Tapestry Room

The Tapestry Room, covered floor to ceiling in 17th century wall hangings, showcases 19th century work such as the large models for the cusps on the Cathedral façade painted by the artists Luigi Mussini and Alessandro Franchi in 1878. Cases around the walls house an important collection of textiles from the Cathedral, while a showcase in the middle of the room contains the precious Casula in Lucca jasper made some time between the 13th and 14th centuries.

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Museum: OPENING HOURS

1 March - 1 November: 10:30 am - 7:00 pm / Sundays, public holidays: 1:30 pm - 6:00 pm / Eve of public holidays: 10:30 am - 6:00 pm
2 November - 28 February (but not 26 December – 8 January): 10:30 am - 5:30 pm / Sundays, public holidays: 1:30 am - 5:30 pm / Eve of public holidays: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm
26 December - 8 January: 10:30 am - 6:00 pm / Sundays, public holidays: 1:30 am - 5:30 pm / Eve of public holidays: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm
Cathedral: Sunday opening hours (March only): 1:30 am - 5:30 pm

Last admission half an hour before the museum closes.
Religious services may lead to changes in the opening times.

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