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Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop, A Crowned Female Figure (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?)

Key facts
Full title A Crowned Female Figure (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?)
Artist Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
Artist dates active possibly 1306; died probably 1348
Series Pietro Lorenzetti Fresco Fragments
Date made 1320s
Medium and support Fresco (with areas of secco)
Dimensions 38 × 33 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3071
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Crowned Female Figure (Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?)
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop

The crown and the millstone, faintly visible at her right side, suggest the woman may be Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, who according to legend, after her death cured the hand of man after it was crushed by a millstone. Though royal, she joined a Franciscan lay order and took a vow of poverty, dedicating her life to charity.

This fragment of fresco once formed part of the border decoration of a large wall painting in the chapter house of San Francesco, Siena. It was removed in the nineteenth century and purchased by the archaeologist and National Gallery trustee, Austen Henry Layard. As an example of the work of the workshop of the Sienese painter Pietro Lorenzetti, who, with his brother decorated important public and religious buildings in Siena with frescoes, it was a desirable object despite its poor condition. Layard was a member of the Arundel Society founded to document and preserve Italian frescoes.

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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.