Early Renaissance art in Siena

A point of encounter for Renaissance artists

Early Renaissance art in Siena: frescoes by Lorenzo di Pietro known as "Vecchietta" and a baptismal font with work by Jacopo della Quercia, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello.

The Baptistry of San Giovanni Battista was built between the 1310s and the 1320s, possibly by master-builder Camaino di Crescentino, alongside the monumental staircase rising to Piazza Jacopo della Quercia and containing the remains of the so-called "New Cathedral".

Fresco cycles

The interior, divided into three rib-vaulted aisles, is frescoed throughout and constitutes one of the most fully representative examples of 15th century Sienese art anywhere. The twelve scenes illustrating the Twelve Articles of the Christian Faith were painted in the vaults by Lorenzo di Pietro, known as "Vecchietta", between 1447 and 1450. Each segment of the vault contains the depiction of one Article and is accompanied by an apostle in the bottom right-hand corner and a prophet in the bottom left-hand corner, identified by the inscription in the scroll that each figure holds in his hand.

Lorenzo di Pietro known as the "Vecchietta", The Article oh Faith

Lorenzo di Pietro known as the "Vecchietta", The Article oh Faith

After completing the frescoes in the vaults, Vecchietta moved on to the apse. On the triumphal arch framing the apse he painted the Assumption of the Virgin in Glory with Angels; on the lower part of the apse, the Annunciation; and on the sides, two scenes from the Passion of Christ: the Flagellation and the Ascent to Calvary. The three segments of the apse proper were frescoed by Matteo Lambertini in 1447 with the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion and the Deposition in the Tomb.

Benvenuto di Giovanni painted the Miracles of St. Anthony of Padua on the end wall of the north aisle in circa 1460, while Pietro di Francesco degli Orioli painted the Washing of the Feet in the south wall lunette in 1489.

Baptismal font

Pride of place in the interior of the Baptistry goes to the Baptismal Font, a magnificent creation in marble, bronze and enamel to which the greatest sculptors of the age, including Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia, all contributed between 1417 and 1431. The font consists in a hexagonal basin adorned with six gilded bronze panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist alternating with statues of the virtues, two of which – Faith and Hope – are by Donatello. The most representative scenes include Lorenzo Ghiberti's Baptism of Christ cast in 1427, an elegant and sophisticated scene with a painterly quality and a sense of perspective achieved thanks to his adoption of the "stiacciato" (very flat, low) relief technique. The cycle is completed by a celebrated relief cast by Donatello in 1427 depicting the Feast of Herod, the most moving scene of all thanks both to the dramatic nature of the subject matter itself and to the panel's superb formal qualities.

Lorenzo Ghiberti, The baptism of Jesus

Donatello, Herod’s banquet

Donatello, Hope

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