Sano di Pietro
Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Siena, Italy
According to Andrea De Marchi, this is a pendant painting with St. John the Baptist, now located in a private collection in Dallas, which was a part of a larger altarpiece representing the Passion. In the central part there was Madonna with Child which is now in the Lehman collection in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
It was a significant altarpiece which included, among other compartments, a painting of St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata (Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale) and St. Ansanus (Torino, private collection) who is one of the four patron saints of Siena.
This particular compartment represents Santa Lucia, St. Lucy, patron saint of the city of Syracuse in Sicily. She is depicted with the palm of martyrdom in her right hand and a plate of human eyes in other one, which is her attribute. Her name, Lucy (Lucia), means light (lux) referring to the devotion of her as a protector of sight.
The background of the painting is completely gilded. The painting originally represented her standing in full-length, but at some point the panel has been cut to show only her bust. St. Lucy is wearing an elegant red dress with golden decorations on the sleeves, neckline and chest. Her yellow mantle is slightly open and it has wide sleeves. Her blond hair is gathered on the top and decorated with a simple red ribbon.
The work dates back around 1440 and it is attributed to Maestro dell’Osservanza, who was identified as Sienese painter Sano di Pietro. This could be confirmed by the eyes placed on the plate, because Sano di Pietro painted them in the same way in other three works representing St. Lucy; the Triptych of St. Bartholomew (1447, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale) the fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin (1445, Siena, Palazzo Pubblico) where St. Lucy is depicted far right, and predella of the church of San Pietro alle Scale.
The elegant figure recalls the works of Gentile da Fabriano, whose influence was also evident in Lucy’s hand gesture and the way she is holding the palm. The strong design and sharp lines of her features were typical of Sano di Pietro.
In the 19th century Santa Lucia was in the collection of the barons Söhlen von Söhlenthal. In the end of the 1920s’ it passed to the Verburgt collection in The Hague. Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena bought the work on 9 July 2008 from Sotheby’s auction in London.
De Marchi A., La «Santa Lucia» del Maestro dell’Osservanza. Sano di Pietro e la firma degli occhi, s.d.;
De Marchi A., in Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Raccolte d’arte senese vol. II. Opere dal XIV al XVIII secolo, Siena, Monte dei Paschi di Siena 2009, pp. 24-31;
De Marchi A., in Da Jacopo della Quercia a Donatello. Le arti a Siena nel primo Rinascimento, catalogo della mostra (Siena, 26 marzo-11 luglio 2010), a cura di M. Seidel, F. Caglioti, E. Carrara, L. Cavazzini, M. Ciatti, E. Cioni, A. De Marchi, G. Fattorini, A. Galli, L. Simonato, Milano, Federico Motta Editore 2010, cat. C. 35, pp. 272-275;
- VV., Lo stato dell’Arte – l’Arte dello Stato. Le acquisizioni del Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo. Colmare le lacune – Ricucire la Storia, catalogo della mostra (Roma, 26 maggio-29 novembre 2015), a cura di M.G. Bernardini, M. Lolli Ghetti, Roma, Gangeli Editore 2015, p. 165;
De Marchi A., in Capolavori e restauri del Comune di Siena e della Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena, catalogo della mostra (Siena, 23 settembre 2010-9 gennaio 2011), a cura di A.M. Guiducci, E. Toti, L. Bonelli, A. Bagnoli, Colle Val d’Elsa, Salvietti e Barabuffi 2010, pp. 40-43;
Sano di Pietro was born in Siena in 1406. Together with his companion Giovanni di Paolo he studied under Sassetta, the greatest Sienese artist of the century, and later he became a head of a workshop himself.
Sano worked mainly in Siena and towns nearby, where he developed a strong narrative style with graceful and pleasant tones. His best works were especially small paintings such as predellas and miniatures, where his style was more faithful to Sassetta and Maestro dell’Osservanza. Among his most interesting works were the Madonna with Angles and Saints Jerome and Bernardine, situated in Bruxelles, the two Preachings of St. Bernardine of the chapter house of the Siena cathedral, the fresco with the Coronation of the Virgin, which was started by Sassetta, situated in the Porta Romana of Siena (Lanzi described Sano’s work even better than his master’s).
Because the first certain work by Sano di Pietro dates back to 1443, when the already mature painter worked in the Sala dell Balia in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena, the art historians have hypothesized the identification of Sano’s first pictorial phase with the production of Maestro dell’Osservanza, an anonymous painter who was active in Siena in the second quarter of the 15th century, following the late Florentine gothic and traditional Sienese style.
To this anonymous painter, known as Maestro dell’Osservanza, has been attributed the triptych depicting Madonna with Child and Saints Ambrose and Jerome, preserved in the church of Osservanza in Siena. Starting from this painting, the critics have been able to build a corpus of high quality works with stylistic similarities, dated between 1430s’ and 1440s’ and highly influenced by the works of Sassetta, who was the master of Sano di Pietro. The probable debut painting of Maestro dell’Osservanza is believed to be the Dead Christ of the Serristori collection in Florence.
Among the works which have been attributed to the anonymous Sienese artist, therefore attributable to the early phase of Sano di Pietro, there are the aforementioned Madonna with Child, the Nativity of the Virgin (Asciano, 1437), the Stories of St. Anthony the Abbot which were supposed to construct a one piece, perhaps an altarpiece (today they are divided between Paris, Louvre, New Haven, University Art Gallery of Washington, National Gallery of New York, Metropolitan Museum – Lehman Collection and Palazzo Squarcialupi of Siena), the Madonna of Humility and Angels (1435-1438, Siena, Palazzo Squarcialupi) and the Madonna of Humility with Saints John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria (1435-1440, Pienza, Museo Diocesano).
A credible corpus of artworks can be obtained combining the two biographies, even if it is not always homogeneous. The early phase seems often better than the following one, which was more repetitive and not so original. In fact, during his last years Sano’s works were characterized by naïve and repetitive religiosity.
He died in Siena in 1481.
All the artworks of
Sano di Pietro
Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation was established on August 28, 1995 with the conferment of banking activity and it is the oldest bank in the world still operating. The headquarters is in Palazzo Sansedoni of Piazza del Campo, Siena, and the main mission is to carry out philanthropic activities in cultural, artistic and environmental sectors.
The foundation owns and preserves two collections: the collection of Artworks and Malandrini collection of photographs. Both collections can be found on digital version online. The artwork collection includes 57 pieces representing prestigious examples of Sienese art, some of which have been lost for centuries. A special committee of scholars and art historians was set up to identify the works of Sienese school between the 13th and 18th century. Among the artworks there are Segna di Bonaventura’s Madonna with Child Enthroned, St. Bartholomew, St. Ansanus and a Donor, Maestro dell’Osservanza’s Santa Lucia, Brescianino’s Madonna with Child and Little St. John, Ventura Salimbeni’s Santa Cecilia, Francesco Vanni’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Rutilio Manetti’s St. Jerome in Penitence and Bernardo Mei’s Holy Family with Magdalene.
The Malandri collection was named after the founder, photographer Ferruccio Malandrini, and it was established in 1975. The collection includes historical photographs from Siena territory, taken between 1853 and 1950. There are 135 units in the collection. The units consist of different themes, origins and technical and historical characteristics and in total they include 11,389 photographs.