(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Piccolomini Altar: St Pius

Duomo, Siena

The Piccolomini Altarpiece is an architectural and sculptural altarpiece in the left-nave of Siena Cathedral, commissioned by cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini who expected it to become his tomb. However, he was elected Pope Pius III and buried in the Vatican. It was built between 1481 and 1485 by Andrea Bregno in Carrara marble, with additions in the following decades - these included four niche sculptures produced between 1501 and 1504 by Michelangelo of Sts Peter, Augustine (later resculpted as St Pius), Paul and Gregory.

The picture shows St Augustine (later resculpted as St Pius), one of the four niche figures by Michelangelo.

The garment of a prince of the Church in full dress cannot be dramatized in the same way as that of an apostle. Michelangelo divided up the task in Siena as a medieval master would have done: he kept the apostles in the lower register for himself; he left the popes in the register above that to Baccio da Montelupo because they are artistically less interesting and are not seen at quite such close range. Pius was particularly sacred to the Piccolomini, because in the person of Enea Silvio, who chose the name Pius II (1458-1464), they had provided their first pope. He founded the town of Pienza.