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Maestà, Lippo Memmi

Artists in the Val d'Elsa

Art history from Middle Ages to today

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Our trip starts in the mid 14th century with Arnolfo di Cambio, among one of the most important Tuscan artists, but perhaps less well-known than others, due to the fact he lived in Rome for decades. And yet Arnolfo came before Michelangelo, Leonardo, Vasari and Sangallo, and was the first who knew how to unite architectural technology, sculpture and painting.

Today, however, it is San Gimignano, with its various contemporary art installations, that allows us to reflect on how the art of today can coexist with the art of the past without negating or offending it, but allowing it to come even more to life. Inside the Palazzo del Popolo, we find the noteworthy Maestà (1347) by Lippo Memmi within the Sala di Dante. The Museo Civico houses amazing works by Coppo di Marcovaldo, Filippino Lippi, Pinturicchio and Benozzo Gozzoli. In the 12th c. Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta we find frescoes from the Sienese School, statues by Iacopo della Quercia, as well as works from the Florentine School. The Santa Fina Chapel is one of the most significant works of the Tuscan Renaissance done by Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano, inside of which we find frescoes by Domenico del Ghirlandaio and his student Sebastiano Mainardi.

The Val d'Elsa also boasts Medieval, Renaissance and contemporary works living in harmony. In particular, we find the frescoes of Taddeo di Bartolo, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and Alessandro Allori in the church of Sant'Agostino, while in the Museo Civico and the Museo d'Arte Sacra visitors can admire a beautiful Maestà by the Maestro di Badia a Isola, a wooden crucifix by Marco Romano and the Tesoro di Galognano, which testifies to the presence of the Goths in this area.

In the Collegiata of Casole d'Elsa we find a cenotaph to Beltramo Aringhieri, considered a Gothic masterpiece by Marco Romano. The nearby oratory houses a Annunciation by Rutilio Manetti and a 14th c. wooden crucifix. Not to be missed is the suggestive and experimental collection we find in the Museo Arte Viva and Galleria del Novecento. The Collegiata museum also houses a precious Madonna fresco by the Duccio School and a Madonna dell'Umiltà by Domenico di Michelino.

In Poggibonsi the ancient and the new fuse completely: in the 13th c. Fonte delle Fate we find Mimmo Paladino's work, “I Dormienti”--25 figures, crouched in fetal position, bronze crocodiles lying down on tiles in water.

Radicondoli's 16th c. Collegiata is the city's principle art center. Inside we find some of the most important Sienese paintings by Alessandro Casolani and Pietro di Domenico. Di Domenico's Nativity Scene from the second half of the 15th c. is characterised by a notable particularity: there is a distinct division between the top part (the Assumption) and the lower part (Nativity), all against the same backdrop which unites the two scenes. The church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria is another site not to be missed. The high altar boasts a 1607 painting by Sebastiano Folli.

Among the artistic treasures of the village of Monteriggioni is the Parrochiale dell'Assunta, a Romanesque/Gothic structure located inside the 1215 set of city walls. The Monteriggioni castle functioned as a barrier for the Florentine army during the many wars between Florence and Siena during those years. Here we also find the Museo d'Arte Sacra Pio XII with works by Lorenzetti, Lorenzo di Pietro aka il Vecchietta, Domenico Boccafumi and Maestro d’Ovile. The church of Santi Salvatore e Cirino in Badia a Isola is not to be missed as it houses the Assumption by Vincenzo Tamagni.

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