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Tanaquil
Domenico Beccafumi
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This panel is part of a series Beccafumi painted for the bedchamber of Francesco di Camillo Petrucci (b.1489), a wealthy merchant and landowner who was nephew of the ruler of the republic of Siena. The decorations were probably made to coincide with Francesco’s marriage to Caterina di Niccolò Mandoli Piccolomini in 1512 and were completed in 1519. Three of the six surviving panels from the series show Roman heroines – Tanaquil, Cornelia and Marcia – and they probably decorated the back of a bench seat.

Tanaquil persuaded her husband Lucumo to emigrate from Tarquinii to Rome, where he was elected king with the title Tarquinius Priscus. After his assassination she secured the political succession for their slave, Servius Tullius. The paintings of the three heroines each contain a Latin couplet in gilt lettering, most likely composed by the scholar who devised the decorative scheme for the bedchamber.

Key facts
Artist Domenico Beccafumi
Artist dates 1484 - 1551
Full title Tanaquil
Group Classical Heroines from a Sienese Bedchamber
Date made about 1519
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 92.1 x 53.3 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Acquired by application of the 1956 Finance Act, 1965
Inventory number NG6368
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Classical Heroines from a Sienese Bedchamber

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These two Roman heroines, Marcia and Tanaquil, are part of a series of painted panels that decorated the bedchamber of Francesco di Camillo Petrucci (b. 1489), a wealthy merchant and landowner who was nephew of Pandolfo Petrucci, ruler of the republic of Siena. Celebrating themes of love, fertility, and wifely and maternal virtue, the decorations were probably made to coincide with Francesco’s marriage to Caterina di Niccolò Mandoli Piccolomini in 1512 and completed in about 1519.

Six of the paintings still exist, though they are in different collections. Three show Roman heroines (the one not in the National Gallery depicts Cornelia) and two feature the Roman festivals of Lupercalia and Cerealia, which were associated with male fertility and female fecundity. A painting of Venus and Cupid probably decorated the bedhead. The paintings of the three heroines and Lupercalia each contain a Latin couplet in gilt lettering likely to have been devised by the scholar responsible for the decorative programme.

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