the banquet - Comune di Siena



the banquet - Comune di Siena
Departure from the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena
via di San Pietro, 29
There are countless undisputed masterpieces in the history of Sienese art that have been studied primarily from an art historical point of
view. Artists from various periods have set religious subjects in domestic environments that depict the daily life of the period and give very
real and concrete settings to these episodes. Subjects like the Marriage at Cana, the Last Supper and the Banquet of Herod become a
religious vehicle for representing banquets with table settings in which the objects and food reflect the culinary customs and etiquette that
the diners would have observed at table as well as giving us a picture of the domestic interiors of the past. In Sienese Art of the 14th
and 15th centuries, the figurative representations of food have a real symbolic value, in the sense that the dining table with its contents
is intricately linked to the relationship with God, spirituality, and transcendency. From the sixteenth century onwards, while the artists
continue to be connected to tradition, there is more culinary exuberance thanks to the influence of Florentine and Roman art of the period.
To illustrate Banquets and Diners in Sienese Art, we have selected some examples of works that are particularly interesting from the point
of view of the food, table settings and interiors represented.
Places included in the itinerary:
The Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena (Via San Pietro, 29)
Museum of the Opera della metropolitana del Duomo (Piazza Duomo, 8)
The Baptistry of San Giovanni Battista (Piazza San Giovanni)
Museum of Santa Maria della Scala (Piazza Duomo, 1)
Ex Convent of Santa Marta (via San Marco, 90)
Starting in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Via San Pietro, we will look at the Saint John the Baptist Enthroned by the Maestro del
Paliotto di San Giovanni (1270/1280). The unknown artist of the altar screen has depicted the imposing figure of the Baptist enthroned
according to the Byzantine tradition, surrounded by scenes of the life of the Saint, amongst which is the Banquet of Herod, in which one
can see Herod and Herodias seated at a simply laid table. On the white and unadorned tablecloth there are two bowels, some bread,
a plate in the center with some meat, and as silverware only a knife because forks were not introduced until the 16th century.
In the same gallery there is the bas relief by Gano di Fazio with Stories of the life of Beato Gioacchino Piccolomini. Amongst these is
the Miraculous Meal in which the food and the table are represented in simple and essential forms; apart from anything else the church
dictated the choice of food according to a calendar which was divided into periods of abstinence and periods of plenty, so that during
Lent and periods of Penitence the diet had to be very frugal and even during the week, where Friday was a day for a lean diet and
Thursday of a richer diet. Amongst the fourteenth century works, there is the Dinner in the House of the Pharisee by Luca di Tommè, one
of the most important painters of the second half of the fourteenth century, influenced by Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers. In
this work the rectangular dining table, around which the diners are gathered, is made up of parallel wooden planks held together by
cross beams with supports in the form of an inverted “V”. The simple, almost sparse table setting has a good quality white linen tablecloth
trimmed in black, referred to as “alla Senese” in inventories of the period. As far as the food is concerned, there are white bread, dry
biscuits and fish served on woodern plates, as well as wine in conical glasses, perhaps the gambassini typical of the period and produced
in the area of Gambassi.
To complete the Banquet theme in the paintings in the Gallery, we will look at the 16th century painting of the Marriage at Cana by an
unknown Tuscan painter who depicts an elegant wedding feast with fruit tarts, donuts, and a big cake made of ricotta and candied fruit.
Continuing our journery in search of laden tables, at the Museum of the Opera della Metropolitana, in Piazza Duomo, there
are several splendid scenes by Duccio: The Last Supper, The Appearance of Christ to the Apostlses, The Marriage at Cana all part of the
center panel, the predella and the pinnacles of the back of the Maestà, in which the painter sets the New Testament scenes in clearly
defined settings in which the spatial relationships can almost be referred to as perspective, with elegant, albeit sparse table settings, and
simple food (lamb, fish, soup, white bread, and dry biscuits to be dipped in wine or broth) served in terracotta bowels. We then move
on to a goldsmith’s work, the Reliquary of the Arm of Saint John the Baptist, by the goldsmith Francesco d’Antonio di Francesco. In the
bas relief that runs along the base of the reliquary, is the scene of the Banquet of Herod. The reliquary was commissioned by the Opera
della Metropolitana in 1465/66 to hold the precious relic of the arm of John the Baptist which had been donated to the Cathedral by
Pope Pius II Piccolomini.
There is another splendid work in sculpture in the Baptisry of San Giovanni in the piazza of the same name below the Cathedral. In
the relief that Donatello made for the Baptismal Font depicting the Banquet of Herod (1425/27)he creates an extraordinarily dynamic
perspective. Using the “stiacciato” effect in bas relief, the artist arranges the narrative on three levels: in the foreground there is the
banquet table, with behind it the musicians in the first loggia, and finally the servant with the head of the Baptist on a platter in the second
loggia. On the walls to the right hand side of the apse, there is a fresco by Pietro di Francesco Orioli that depicts the Washing of the
Feet, to the left of which there is an interesting trompe-loeil where one can see a wall cabinet with shelves on which there are glasses and
glazed ceramic dishes, and on the right a table laid with a transparent glass carafe and glass tumblers.
Going up Via dei Fusari, we come back into Piazza Duomo and enter the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala, the ancient building
which until only recently housed the city hospital and where one can admire one of the most important and imposing fresco cycles of the
Italian Quattrocento. The large scenes frescoed on the walls of the long room referred to as the Pellegrinaio, or Pilgrims’ Hospice, tell
the stories of the founding of the hospital as well as representing its daily activities. Amongst these, there is The Meal of thePpoor People
by Domenico di Bartolo (1442/43) which describes the meal that was given to the poor three times a week according to a law that
was in effect from the fourteenth century onwards. The diners are seated behind a horseshoe-shaped table, with an embroidered white
tablecloth and food is being distributed by the servers.
To conclude our itinerary and for those who want to walk a little further, we will go to Via San Marco and the Ex Convent of Santa
Marta, now seat of the Historical Archives of the city. On the end wall of the original refectory, there is one of the most beautiful and
interesting works of SIenese art of the first quarter of the sixteenth century. The painter Giacomo Pacchiarotti has put the diners at the Last
Supper around an imposing horseshoe-shaped table raised on a dias underneath a loggia, according to the best Renaissance tradition.
The Apostles form a sort of crown around Christ in the center, and talk amongst themselves or listen to the words of the Saviour, while on
the table, covered with a white tablecloth, there are terracotta and wooden dishes, wineglasses, knives, jugs and carafes. The food is
very simple and one can distinguish some bread and remains of meat on the wooden plates.
by Lucia Pacchierotti and Beatrice Pulcinelli - Art historians, Comune di Siena
Pinacoteca Nazionale
Via di San Pietro, 29 – Siena
Reservations and information:
0577 286143
Opening hours:
Mondays: 9.00 – 13.00
From Tuesdays to Saturdays:
8.15 – 19.15
Sundays and holidays: 9.00 – 13.00
Closed: January 1, May 1,
December 25
On July 2 and August 16:
9.00 – 13.00
Tickets: € 4.00
Reduced: € 2.00
Museum of the Opera della
metropolitana del Duomo
Piazza Duomo, 8 – Siena
Information: tel. 0577 283048
Opening hours:
from 01/03 to 31/10: 10.30 – 19.00
from 01/11 to 28/02 : 10.30 – 17.30
Tickets: € 7.00
The Baptistry of San Giovanni
Piazza San Giovanni – Siena
informazion tel. 0577 283048
Opening hours:
from 01/03 to 31/10: 10.30 – 19.00
from 01/11 to 28/02: 10.30 – 17.30
Tikets € 4.00
Santa Maria Della Scala
Opening hours:
Mondays and Wednesdays: 10.3016.30; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays
and Sundays: 10.30-18.30
Sienese public schools, accompanying
teachers, group leaders (1 every15
people), disabled and journalists
Ex Convent of Santa Marta
Via di San Marco, 90
Tel 0577 45415
[email protected]
Opening hours
by appointment only. Closed on
Free entrace
Closed on Tuesdays
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,
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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