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BANQUETS, FOOD AND COMMERCE IN SIENESE ART
FOOD AND COMMERCE
Departure from Palazzo Pubblico
Piazza del Campo, 1
3
This is an itinerary focused on another aspect of food and its representation in art in which we will look at the passage of food from its
cultivation to consumption, its journey from the production stage, to sale and finally to convivial scenes of diners consuming the food at the
dinner table. This is a sort of fil rouge between art and the table in which food is an element that takes on a symbolic and transcendent
significance, as a consumable good. The history of the organization of food in a commercial sense goes back to the Medieval period
if we consider the economic and social rebirth that began in Europe in the early eleventh century. The places that reflected this most
accurately were the markets where amongst many other characters the predominance of the figure of the travelling salesman embodies
the most ancient form of commerce.
Our journey will begin in Piazza del Campo which has always been the center of commerce in the city.
Places in the itinerary
Palazzo Pubblico Museo Civico (piazza del Campo, 1)
Museum of Santa Maria della Scala (piazza del Duomo, 1)
Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati (via della Sapienza, 5)
The frescoes in Palazzo Pubblico of Good Government (1337-1339) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Sala del Nove are not to be
missed. These are a sublime vision of daily life in Siena which show the effects of Good Government on the city and countryside and
where there are numerous figures of salesmen and farmers, who travelled on the Via Francigena to sell their produce in the Campus Fori
in Siena.
The Sala del Nove epitomizes the spirit of Palazzo Pubblico and represents the peak of its political and social splendour. This was the
meeting room for the Government of the Nine Good Men, the representatives of the the middleclass merchants of the city. Between
1337 and 1340, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, one of the most famous painters of the period,, frescoed the walls with the Allegory of Good
Government, the Effects of Good Government, The Effects of Bad Government. This is the very first cycle of frescoes with a philosophical
and political message and non-religious content as well as being one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art.
Another place where we can see a unique masterpiece is in the Pellegrinaio (Pilgrims’ Hospice), the main room in the Hospital of
Santa Maria della Scala. The fifteenth century frescoes that decorate the walls are divided into eight large scenes, or fotogrammi,
that illustrate the history and activities of this ancient institution and also feature food as a concrete form of the charity and assistance
provided by the hospital. The extensive farms, numerous properties, and continual inheritances made Santa Maria an enormously rich
institution: every day alms were handed out to the poor and they were given a banquet three times a week with local products that came
from the granges nearby, These were fortified farms south of the city that were owned by the hospital.
A thousand years ago marked the beginning of one of the most prestigious and fruitful works of charity in European history: The Hospital
of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena: according to tradition it was founded by a shoemaker called Sorore, while history attributes its
founding to the Canons of the Cathedral. The hospital started as a xenodochium or a place that offered hospitality to pilgrims, foreigners
that arrived from all over Europe, travelling on the Via Francigena; soon afterwards it evolved into a hospitale for the poor and the sick,
an orphanage that took in abandoned children and a shelter for the old.
As far as the theme of this itinerary is concerned, there is the fresco of the Distribution of Alms (1441) by Domenico di Bartolo which
illustrates one of the many fourteenth century obligations of the hospital: the distribution of bread to the poor and the pilgrims. The
distribution of bread and the clothing of the naked effectively synthesize the charitable works of the Hospital. In the middle of the fresco
there is a yound man who is putting on the robe that has been given to him and one of the lay brothers who is handing out bread to
young people, pilgrims and beggers who daily came to the main door of the hospital opposite the Cathedral.
Also by Domenico di Bartolo is the fresco of The Giving Shelter, Education and Marriage of one of the Daughters of the Hospital
(1441/1442), a scene that describes another of the activities of the hospital that was dictated by the fourteenth century regulations:
giving shelter, care, education and the possibility of getting married to the abandoned children taken in by the hospital. The various
stages of the life of the children are illustrated from when they are taken in by the strong arms of the wet nurses, to weaning, education,
and finally the wedding of an orphaned woman. On the left we can see one of the lay sisters coming in with a basket of almond paste
sweets similar to “ricciarelli”, to be distributed to the children intent on their studies and games.
The itinerary will continue to the eighteenth century rooms of the Biblioteca degli Intronati in Via della Sapienza 3, where it will be
possible to see the precious Breviario Fratrum Minorum (Ms.X.IV.2), preserved in the library. This was illustrated in the second half of the
fifteenth century by the Sienese painter, Sano di Pietro and his workshop with lively miniatures that decorate the pages of the prayer book
used by the nuns of Saint Clare in Siena. They are divided into months of the year and give us a chronicle of the seasonal agricultural
activities in the Sienese countryside, like the pressing of grapes and the olive harvest.
by Lucia Pacchierotti and Beatrice Pulcinelli - Art historians, Comune di Siena
Museo Civico
Opening hours:
01/11 – 15/03 10.00 – 18.00
(tickets untill 17,15)
16/03 – 31/10 10.00 – 19.00
(tickets untill18,15)
Tickets:
Full: € 9.00 without reservation € 8.00 with reservation
Reduced: € 8.00 without reservation
- € 7.50 with reervation
Family tickets (2 adults+ children
over 11 years of age) € 22.00
Free: Residents in the Comune of
Siena, children under 11 years of age,
Sienese public schools, accompanying
teachers, group leaders (1 every15
people), disabled and journalists
Information:
Tel 0577 292615 - 0577 292614 Fax 0577 292620
[email protected]
Santa Maria della Scala
Opening hours:
Mondays and Wednesdays: 10.3016.30; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays
and Sundays: 10.30-18.30
Closed on Tuesdays
Tickets:
Full: € 9.00
Reduced:(11 – 19 years of age;
over 65; university students not in
Siena university; militari; categorie
convenzionate; groups of minimum 15
people): € 8.00
Family ticket;( 2 adults + two
children over 11 years old): € 22.00
Free: Residents in the Comune of
Siena, children under 11 years
of age, Sienese public schools,
accompanying teachers, group
leaders (1 every15 people), disabled
and journalists
Biblioteca degli Intronati:
Via della Sapienza, 3
Opening hours:
From monday to friday:
9.00 - 19.00
saturday: 9.00 - 13.45
Free entrance
Information:
Tel 0577 282972 - 280704
[email protected]
Information
Tel 0577 534511
Fax 0577 534510
[email protected]
Tourist Board of Siena
Palazzo Pubblico, Piazza Il Campo, 1 - 53100 Siena - Tel. 0577 292128 – 178 [email protected]
Tourist Information Office Santa Maria della Scala, piazza Duomo 1, tel. 0577 280551, [email protected]
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