VECCHIETTA
(b. ca. 1412, Castiglione di Val d'Orcia, d. 1480, Siena)

The Vision of St Sorore

1441
Fresco, height c. 450 cm
Pellegrinaio, Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, Siena

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

Vecchietta was entrusted with painting the first in the series of paintings on the east wall that illustrated scenes in the Spedale's history. This was the Vision of St Sorore (The Founding of the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala).

In this painting Vecchietta set the complex scene in what appears to be a vaulted church. This allowed him to place the central narrative event within the nave of this church. Here the cobbler, Sorore, the mythical founder of the Spedale, is shown describing to one of the canons of the cathedral the vision that his mother was alleged to have experienced before his birth. Behind these two figures, in the space of the domed crossing, appears the vision itself - the Virgin welcoming infants who have reached heaven by climbing up the hospital's emblem of a ladder. The right-hand aisle of the church, meanwhile, acts as the setting for the first occasion when Sorore brought a foundling to one of the cathedral canons and received money for the upkeep of the child. The entire edifice is fronted by an impressive façade whose style with its antique detail of fluted piers, ornate capitals and frieze is unequivocally Renaissance. Perspective has been employed to great effect, both on the pavement of the church and in the recession of the building itself.

The complete description of the frescoes in the Pellegrinaio can be found in the section of Domenico di Bartolo, who executed six of the surviving eight frescoes of the hall.




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