(b. ca. 1400, Asciano, d. ca. 1447, Siena)

Caring for the Sick

Fresco, height c. 450 cm
Pellegrinaio, Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, Siena

This fresco is located in the 5th bay on the west wall of the Pellegrinaio in the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala. The Pellegrinaio, situated on the ground floor of the hospital, is a fourteenth-century room which took the form of a long vaulted hall.

In the four scenes on the west wall, painted by Domenico di Bartolo, we find large numbers of figures gathered in a stagelike foreground and engaged in the various good works assigned to the hospital by statute in 1305. The settings for these depictions of everyday work of the hospital may reproduce actual spaces within the complex. For all their realism, the scenes are highly idealised.

In the Caring for the Sick Domenico combines specific portraiture with a sensitive treatment of the nude figure. The unidealized bodies of the sick man being placed in bed and the wounded man being washed rank among the most naturalistic figures in Quattrocento painting.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.