(b. ca. 1412, Castiglione di Val d'Orcia, d. 1480, Siena)
Arliquiera (outer shutters)1445
Tempera on panel, 273 x 187 (each shutter)
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
The Arliquiera is a wooden structure designed to enclose the hospital's precious relics in a niche in the wall of the sacristy of the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala in Siena. Vecchietta's work in the sacristy started with the painting of the Arliquiera.
On its outer face the Arliquiera displayed a series of saints and beati who were particularly revered in Siena and in the Spedale. Members of major religious orders were skilfully juxtaposed with members of the lay orders associated with them. Thus below the Dominican friar Ambrogio Sansedoni appeared the Dominican tertiary Catherine of Siena. Represented just above the massive metal bolts that secured the doors of the Arliquiera was the Blessed Agostino Novello, a figure of particular relevance to the Spedale. Believed to have written the rule for the hospital community of Augustinian tertiaries, this Augustinian friar is accordingly shown in the act of bestowing the mantle of office on the kneeling figure of a rector. Above this array of civic saints was placed a sequence of four paintings that portrayed in the outer compartments the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin of the Annunciation and in the centre the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. While the first two figures alluded to the annual display of the relics to the public on the feast of the Annunciation, the second two scenes acted as a reminder of a prized relic held in the Arliquiera - one of the nails believed to have been used at the Crucifixion. The inner surfaces of the doors were painted with eight scenes depicting the Passion. Thus, when the doors were opened, the relics would have been framed by an entire sequence of paintings illustrating the key events that led up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.