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Coriolanus persuaded by his Family to spare Rome
Luca Signorelli
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This picture, painted in fresco (directly onto wet plaster), was part of a series of eight which decorated the walls of the palace belonging to Pandolfo Petrucci, the ruler of Siena. He commissioned the frescoes to celebrate the marriage of his son to Pope Pius III’s niece. Two others survive in the National Gallery’s collection.

Coriolanus, a high-ranking Roman general, was banished from Rome in 491 BC, taking refuge with the neighbouring Volsci. Some years later he led them to victory against Rome. His mother Volumnia and his wife Vergilia – holding their baby – are here shown leading a deputation of women to beg for his mercy and to spare the city. Coriolanus, overwhelmed by emotion, opens his arms ready to embrace his elder child. Eventually he withdrew his troops, choosing family over politics.

The patron, Pandolfo Petrucci, may have identified with such a scene: he was banished from Siena briefly in the 1490s and went into self-imposed exile in 1503.

Key facts
Artist Luca Signorelli
Artist dates about 1440/50 - 1523
Full title Coriolanus persuaded by his Family to spare Rome
Series Three Frescoes from Palazzo del Magnifico, Siena
Date made about 1509
Medium and support Fresco, detached and mounted on canvas
Dimensions 125.7 x 125.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3929
Location in Gallery Room 53
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Three Frescoes from Palazzo del Magnifico, Siena

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These three paintings in fresco (painted directly on to wet plaster) once decorated the walls of a room in the Petrucci family palace in Siena. Each wall was painted with two frescoes, positioned on either side of a doorway or window. The ceiling, which can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, contained 20 frescoes of mythological scenes, divided by carved, painted and gilded stucco (plaster), produced by Pintoricchio and his workshop. At the centre was the Petrucci coat of arms, surrounded by flying putti (cherubs).

The frescoes were commissioned by Pandolfo Petrucci to celebrate the marriage of his son to the niece of Pope Pius III. The occasion provided an opportunity to show off his fashionable interest in classical history – through scenes from ancient Greek and Roman literature and history, the frescoes illustrate family values and the virtues important to marriage.

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