The Sienese School of Italian painting flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries and, for a time, rivalled Florence, though it was more conservative, being inclined towards the decorative beauty and elegant grace of late Gothic art.
Together with Florence, Siena was the main economic, political, and cultural centre of Tuscany in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Although only in 1559 did Siena become part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under the rule of the Medici, its heyday was unquestionably two centuries earlier, between 1287 and 1355, when the independent commune was ruled by nine magistrates drawn from a restricted oligarchy. During this time of peace and prosperity - interrupted by the devastating plague of 1348 that reduced the population by more than half - the city allied itself with the papal party of the Guelphs and had contacts with the Angevin dynasty in France and Naples. These political ties help explain the pronouncedly Gothic character of so much of Sienese architecture and the fluent elegance of its paintings.
No other city outside Florence produced a comparably great school of painting, culminating in the figures of Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, and the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Duccio may be considered the father of Sienese painting and is, together with Giotto, one of the founders of Western art.
Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Sienese painters looked increasingly to Florence for inspiration, but outstanding artists such as Sassetta, Giovanni di Paolo, Neroccio de' Landi, Matteo di Giovanni, Sodoma and Beccafumi maintained the great tradition established by their fourteenth-century forebears.
Guided Tour #8 presents in detail Art in Siena in the 13th-16th centuries.
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