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Key facts
Full title The Story of Griselda, Part II: Exile
Artist Master of the Story of Griselda
Artist dates active about 1490 - 1500
Series Spalliera Panels with the Story of Patient Griselda
Date made about 1494
Medium and support Oil with some tempera on wood
Dimensions 61.6 x 154.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1874
Inventory number NG913
Location Room 53
Art route(s) A
Collection Main Collection
The Story of Griselda, Part II: Exile
Master of the Story of Griselda
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The story of a peasant woman called Griselda was told in The Decameron, a book written in the mid-fourteenth century. She was put through a series of tests by her rich husband, the Marquis Gualtieri di Saluzzo – we see three of them in this painting.

In the background on the left, two tiny babies in white swaddling bandages are secretly carried away; the Marquis told Griselda he had ordered their children to be killed. Next, he pretended that he had annulled their marriage, and Griselda can be seen in the centre returning her wedding ring. She appears again in the next arcade, half-undressed: now divorced she returns her beautiful clothes and, wearing only her underdress, returns to her father’s house.

Loyal throughout her ordeal, Griselda became a model of wifely virtue. This panel is one of three commissioned for a room in the Spanocchi family palace in Siena, probably made to celebrate two family marriages which took place in January 1494.

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Spalliera Panels with the Story of Patient Griselda

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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.