From San Gimignano and Buonconvento, Pienza to Montalcino, Asciano to Castiglione d'Orcia and Montepulciano, anyone who visits this area can see the profound connection between art and the culture that produced it. It's also easy to see the surprising traces of the 15th century as you travel through the Siena territory, especially in the area’s many museums. Below is our list of the must-see museums to visit while here.
At the turn of the 15th century, because of a centuries-old struggle between the two cities, there was an alternation of artists from Siena and Florence in San Gimignano, like Taddeo di Bartolo and the "Master of 1419,” which ended with Florentine influence being dominant, represented by artists like Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi and Sebastiano Mainardi, contributing to the renewal of local painting. Works by these artists and many more can be seen at the Pinacoteca in San Gimignano.
An altarpiece by Sano di Pietro kept in the museum documents the popularity of the new saints of Siena, Bernardino and Catherine, who, in the middle of the 15th century, were at the centre of much devotion, eventually leading to an outstanding artistic flourishing.
In the 15th century, near Siena, there was a revival of iconographic models from the 14th century, including examples like the large altarpieces that can be seen in the cathedral in Siena and the frescoes painted in the city gates, the latter of which were tied to civic identity: this trend is documented by the works of Pietro di Giovanni Ambrosi and Giovanni di Paolo, today housed at Palazzo Corboli.
In the beautiful rooms of the Museum of Montalcino, you can see numerous examples of painted wooden sculpture from between the 14th and 15th centuries, especially those by Francesco Valdambrino, who was among Jacopo della Quercia's favorite students.
The prestigious collection of the Diocesan Museum in Pienza is the perfect place to uncover and better understand the rich patronage of Pope Pius II Piccolomini, a major proponent of art, culture and urban renewal. It’s also worth noting that this museum houses a significant number of works by Domenico di Niccolò.
The small but worthwhile museum in Castiglione d'Orcia preserves two important examples of Renaissance painting: the Madonna of Humility by Giovanni di Paolo and a Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels by Lorenzo di Pietro the Elder.
The Pinacoteca houses two small devotional images from the 15th century: the shadowy Lady of the Pillar by Sano di Pietro and the Renaissance marble altarpiece by the "Master of Pius II", both from the cathedral in Montepulciano. The masterpiece by Taddeo di Bartolo still stands on the altar inside the church.