Interestingly, the most recent element of the cathedral decoration—the enormous central doors commissioned in the 1960s from Emilio Greco—maintains the focus on a Word made flesh. The subject of these bronze relief panels is that of the seven works of corporal mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison, burying the dead.
Page 45: Private family chapels such as that of the Sassetti
Among these [masterworks of the Renaissance found in private family chapels] are a number of the artworks featured in the discussions in this book, such as the altarpiece and frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the private chapel of the Sassetti family in the monastery church of the Vallombrosian order (painted in the 1480s).
Page 45: Private family chapels such as the Brancacci
... and Masaccio’s and Masolino’s frescoes in the private chapel of the Brancacci family in the monastery church of the Carmelite order in Florence.
Page 47: The Cloister in the Abbey of Monte Oliveto
... the artists Sodoma and Luca Signorelli shared in the commission to fresco scenes from the vastly influential biography of Benedict written around 600 (less than a century after Benedict’s death) by Pope Gregory the Great.
Page 48: Monte Oliveto, discerning the poisoned wine
The miracles are there in the frescoed cloister of Monte Oliveto. But Sodoma’s and Signorelli’s visual narrative focuses not so much on the melodrama of the action as on the character of the people involved. ... Making the sign of the cross, [Benedict] breaks a goblet of poisoned wine offered him by a group of monks who are resisting the yoke of the disciplined life under his care.
Page 48: Monte Oliveto, discerning the false Totilla
A similar action occurs in the side of the cloister painted by Signorelli when Benedict discerns the false identity of a “double” sent by Totilla, king of the Goths, to test the man of God.
Page 49: conventional design of Last Suppers
Most of us have been habituated (if only by countless reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’sfamous composition) to the conventional pictorial arrangement of the Last Supper. The disciples are arranged on the outer side of the table, Jesus sits in the center, with Judas very often seated alone on the opposite side of the table. (The Last Supper in this photograph is that of Domenico Ghirlandaio, frescoed in the dining hall of Monastery San Marco in Florence, in the 1490s.)
Page 50: Chapter House in Santa Maria Novella, Florence
The chapter house in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Novella in Florence exemplifies the pattern. Each of the four walls in this large cube of a hall takes up a key theme. Entering from the cloister, one faces the Crucifixion, a scene with additional resonance for the Dominican order—the “order of preachers”—for whom St. Paul’s “we preach Christ Crucified” gives the marching orders. (Painted in the 1360s by Andrea di Bonaiuto, sometimes referred to as Andrea da Firenze)
Page 51: Chapter house in Santa Maria Novella
The defining work of the Dominicans is as preachers and teachers; their mission is to defend the faithful against the attacks of heretics. Hence the aptness of the decoration on one wall, where the entire educational program necessary to fulfill their calling is laid out in diagrammatic fashion—a sort of visual course catalog, one might say, for what we would think of a Seminary education nowadays.
Page 51: Chapter House of Santa Maria Novella
On the opposite wall is an allegorical narrative of the vocation of the Dominicans, of putting that education into practice. Modern scholars still fuss over the interpretation of various aspects, but the gist is clear enough ...
Page 56: Sala dei Nove (council room of the Nine) in the Town Hall of Siena
The programme of the frescoes in the meeting room of the Nine unfolds in two mirroring sequences around three of the four walls of the council chamber. (Painted in the 1330s by Ambrogio Lorenzetti)
Page 56: The pictorial analysis of good and bad government in the Sala dei Nove, Siena Town Hall
... the meeting room of the Nine unfolds in two mirroring sequences around three of the four walls of the council chamber. (The photograph indicates the corner that serves as the hinge point, from which the depiction of Good and Bad Government unfolds in parallel A-B-C sequences of Virtues (and Vices), then of townscapes, then of landscapes.)
Page 57: Town and country of a well-governed city
The long wall adjacent to this allegorical presentation of the virtues of good government presents the wholesome effects of such good governing for the sake of the common good, first, inside the walls of the city and then in the countryside governed by the Comune ...
Page 58: Piccolomini Library in the Siena cathedral
The painter Pinturicchio was commissioned to fresco the walls with scenes from Pius’s life. (Painted in the early 1500s, commissioned by Pius II's nephew Cardinal Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini to house his uncle's valuable library of manuscripts.)
Page 59: Pope Julius's library, frescoed by Raphael around 1510
The frescoed decoration of the ceiling and the four walls can be understood to serve the very useful purpose as a sort of visual card catalog for the four main sections of the Pontif’s collection: theology, literature, law, and philosophy. (Here is the wall given to Philosophy, the so-called "School of Athens.")
Page 59: The Theology wall, so-called the Disputà
The complex ideas developed visually in the mural of the great intellects of ancient Greece are apprehended only in relation to the opposite wall—that of theology, where the focus (and perspectival focal point) is on the wafer of the Host displayed on the altar, the Eucharist as the sacrament of the real presence of the invisible God in the visible person of Christ.
Page 59: Adam & Eve, between Law and Theology
(In the ceiling are figures representing Philosophy, Theology, Literature and Law. In this photograph, the scene of the Temptation and Fall is appropriately located in the corner between Law -- or Justice -- and Theology.)
Page 59: Mount Parnassus, the mountain of the great poets
Page 25: The Cardinal Virtues
Above the wall devoted to Justice are the figures (from left to right) of Fortitude, Prudence, and Temperance, thus completing the set of the four cardinal virtues, christianized from classical tradition.
Page 60: The Fountain in the central piazza of Siena
Siena’s Fonte Gaia, carved by the greatest Sienese sculptor of his generation, Jacopo della Quercia, stands at the apex of the scallop-shell-shaped piazza in town center that slopes down to its focal point in the town hall at the bottom center-point. (Created around 1420)
Page 60: Fonte Gaia, Siena
The series of bas-relief panels placed in niches around the sides provide daily reminders for the gathered citizens both of the legendary civic origins of their city ... and of the origin of their toil in the Temptation, Fall, and Expulsion from Eden of our first parents Adam and Eve.