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A Female Saint
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
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The upper layers of paint in the draperies are faded so that you can see the underdrawing – or sinopia – beneath. Traces of paint reveal that the draperies were originally blue. The figure’s pose – she recoils in fear, drawing her hand to her breast – is similar to images of the Virgin receiving the news of that she would bear the Son of God at the Annunciation.

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, Ambrogio, decorated several important religious and public 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.

Key facts
Artist Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
Artist dates active possibly 1306; died probably 1348
Full title A Female Saint (the Annunciate Virgin or one of the Marys?)
Group Pietro Lorenzetti Fresco Fragments
Date made possibly about 1336-40
Medium and support Fresco (with areas of secco)
Dimensions 39 x 30 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3072
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Pietro Lorenzetti Fresco Fragments

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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.

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