Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop, A Crowned Female Figure (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?)
Pietro Lorenzetti Fresco Fragments
These two fragments of frescoes (which were painted directly onto a freshly plastered wall) come from the Sienese convent church of San Francesco. They were part of the border decoration of larger fresco paintings on the walls of the church’s chapter house. By the time they were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, the chapter house had been converted into a blacksmith’s workshop and the frescoes had been covered with whitewash.
Once restored, the larger surviving frescoes were moved to chapels in the church itself. These fragments appear almost monochrome as their removal from the wall damaged the coloured surface painting, revealing the brownish preparatory design below.
These two fragments of frescoes – a female saint and a crowned woman – were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century in what was once the chapter house of the Franciscan convent of San Francesco in Siena. The room was being used as a blacksmith’s workshop when plaster fell off the wall to reveal paintings. All of the whitewash that had been painted over the walls was removed to discover what lay beneath.
A number of images were revealed. Opposite the entrance to the room was a large scene of the Crucifixion, and on one wall was The Martyrdom of the Franciscans as well as Pope Boniface receiving Saint Louis of Toulouse as a novice. The frescoes were attributed to the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the leading Sienese painters of their generation, responsible for a number of public commissions including frescoes for the city’s town hall, the Palazzo Pubblico.
The frescoes were restored and the majority were moved to chapels within the church itself. But removing them damaged the surface in some areas, and fine details painted over the top of the frescoes as finishing touches have in some cases been lost. This explains why we can see the brownish underpainting in these figures. The traces of faintly visible decorative detail surrounding the two fragments show that they came from the borders of the larger scenes.