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Spalliera Panels with the Story of Patient Griselda


These three long panels illustrate the story of a young peasant woman, Griselda, as told in The Decameron, a fourteenth-century collection of novellas by the Italian author Boccaccio. They were likely destined to decorate the chambers (or camera) of a newly-wed couple, since the tale celebrates a woman’s loyalty and marital fidelity, against the odds.

It is very likely that these panels were commissioned at the time of the marriages of two brothers of the noble Sienese Spannocchi family, which took place in January 1494. Their father, Ambrogio, was the papal banker to Pius II Piccolomini, also from Siena.

Our panels have been connected with two others of a similar shape and size at Longleat House, Wiltshire, which depict ancient leaders Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. They are attributed to the workshop of the Florentine painters Domenico and Davide Ghirlandaio. The picture of Alexander the Great included the Spanocchi coat of arms.