At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

18 May 2018

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi – artist

Painter from Siena experimented with rich colour 

Beccafumi's Madonna with Child, St Jerome and the Infant St John is notable for its almost luminous colours
Beccafumi's Madonna with Child, St Jerome and the Infant
St John
is notable for its almost luminous colours
Considered one of the last true representatives of the Sienese school of painting, Domenico di Pace Beccafumi died on this day in 1551 in Siena.

He is remembered for his direction of the paving of the Duomo - cathedral - of Siena between 1517 and 1544, when he made ingenious improvements to the technical processes employed for this task, which in the end took more than 150 years to complete.

Domenico was born in Montaperti near Siena in about 1486. His father, Giacomo di Pace, worked on the estate of Lorenzo Beccafumi, whose surname he eventually took.

Seeing his talent for drawing, Lorenzo had taken an interest in him and recommended that he learn painting from the Sienese artist, Mechero.

In 1509 Di Pace Beccafumi travelled to Rome for a short period, where he learnt from artists working on the Vatican.

Back in Siena, he painted religious pieces for churches and was only mildly influenced by the trends dominating the neighbouring Florentine school.

Domenico Beccafumi: a self-portrait
Domenico Beccafumi: a self-portrait
He designed scenes from the Old Testament to decorate the floor of the cathedral and also painted frescoes for Palazzo Pubblico in the city.

Di Pace Beccafumi is renowned for his use of rich, almost luminous colours. One of his paintings, which was rediscovered only in 1983, is Madonna with Child, St Jerome and the Infant St John. It shows Mary wearing a blue robe lined with an almost iridescent pale green. The painting is now in a collection in Madrid.

Siena had been an artistic rival of Florence, but wars and natural disasters had caused a decline by the 15th century. Stylistically, Beccafumi was the last in a long line of Sienese artists to use intense colour to express emotion and passion in his paintings.

The main altar of the Duomo di Siena and Beccafumi's mosaic floor
The main altar of the Duomo di Siena
and Beccafumi's mosaic floor
Travel tip:

Siena’s Duomo, was designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has a beautiful façade built in Tuscan Romanesque style using polychrome marble. Inside, its inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy and covers the whole floor of the cathedral. The uncovered floor can be seen for only a few weeks each year, usually including September. The rest of the year it is kept covered, with only a few panels on display at a time. Half of the 13 Scenes from the life of Elijah in the transept of the cathedral were designed by Domenico Beccafumi, as well as Moses Striking Water on the Rock and Moses on Mount Sinai. His final contribution to the floor was The Sacrifice of Isaac, completed in 1547, which is in front of the main altar.

A monument to the Battle of Montaperti
A monument to the Battle of Montaperti
Travel tip:

Montaperti, where Di Pace Beccafumi was born, is part of the comune (municipality) of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the province of Siena. Since 1932 it has been included in the Chianti wine production area. The famous Battle of Montaperti fought between Guelphs and Ghibellines took place there on September 4, 1260.

Also on this day:

1892: The birth of Metropolitan Opera star Ezio Pinza

1939: The birth of murdered anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone


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