Room 60

Raphael, Perugino and Umbria 1490–1510

By the 15th century, the power of the republic of Siena was waning and its artists were encouraged to look to a glorious past to reinforce the city’s civic and cultural identity and to preserve a purity of religious devotion. Painters continued to use gilded backgrounds, and they idealised their figures with the fluid grace of an artistic hero such as Duccio.

The rise of the tyrannical Petrucci family in the 1480s, who were suspicious of Siena’s republican past, heralded a new interest in painting from elsewhere in the country. Luca Signorelli, who worked all over central Italy, received commissions for his muscular, energetic paintings. Pintoricchio, whose contrasting decorative style had met with success in Perugia and Rome, settled in Siena.

Perugia’s most celebrated painter, Pietro Perugino, was a pioneer of ‘the devout style’. His paintings are characterised by their meditative stillness and the angelic expressions of their protagonists. It was a style that made him the most successful artist in Italy during the last decade of the 15th century.