GENGA, Girolamo
(b. 1476, Urbino, d. 1551, La Valle)

Flight of Aeneas from Troy

Fresco, 126 x 138 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

In 1511 Vittoria Piccolomini, niece to Pius III, married Borghese Petrucci, son of Pandolfo Petrucci, the ruler of Siena. This alliance was duly commemorated in one of the principal rooms in the Palazzo Petrucci in Siena. (The Petrucci coat-of-arms quartered with that of the Piccolomini appear on many of the pavement tiles and in three places on the surviving woodwork from this room.) Located in a medieval tower, the base of which became the principal entrance of the building, early sixteenth-century references to this third-floor room suggest that it originally functioned as an audience chamber where Pandolfo received guests and conducted official business. Nothing of the sixteenth-century painted decoration remains in the room today but it is clear from two eighteenth-century descriptions that it was originally decorated with eight fresco paintings representing classical subject matter, five of which survive today (the Triumph of Chastity and the Coriolanus Persuaded by his Family to Spare Rome both by Luca Signorelli in the National Gallery, London; the Return of Ulysses by Pinturicchio in the National Gallery, London; Fabius Maximus Ransoming Prisoners from Hannibal and the Flight of Aeneas from Troy, both by Girolamo Genga in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena) and three are lost (two by Luca Signorelli and one by Pinturicchio). While all the surviving paintings demonstrate both the complex nature of the imagery chosen and Pandolfo's taste for antiquity, each of the painters retained his distinctive style.

Genga in his painting of the Flight of Aeneas from Troy shows Aeneas's wife, Creusa, in a loose robe that is not dissimilar to those worn by women in antiquity. Her central position and spectacular pose underline the drama of the event, as recounted in Virgil's Aeneid, whereby she became separated from her husband, father-in-law and young son. In his representation of this calamitous event, Genga took the opportunity to convey different atmospheric effects, such as the smoke-laden city of Troy in the background and the reflection of moonlight on the domed roof of a temple on the left.