Sano di Pietro
Sano di Pietro (1406–1481) was an Italian painter of the Sienese school of painting. His career spanned from the end of the Trecento period into the Quattrocento period. His contemporaries included Giovanni di Paolo and Sassetta.
Sano was born in 1406. His name enters the roll of painters in 1428 where it remained until his death in 1481. In addition to his own painting and overseeing the pupils and assistants in his workshop, he was also part of the civic fabric of Siena. There are city records showing his participation. In 1431 and 1442 he was the leader of the San Donato district of Siena (1). Sano was also emplloyed as an arbitrator; in 1475 he was called upon to settle a dispute between fellow painters Nerroccio di Bartolommeo and Francesco di Giorgio Martini (2).
It was, however, as a painter that he made his living. The workshop he ran produced huge number of artworks. Sano himself is quite interesting. He wasn't merely a painter of altar pieces. He also produced frescoes, miniatures, and book bindings. Book bindings are exquisite little paintings that went on the spine of a book. After a long and successful career Sano died in 1481. His death notice read;
- Pictor famosus et homo tous deditus Deo
- A famous painter and a man wholly dedicated to God(3)
The Sienese School
In the century before Sano's birth the Sienese school of painting had risen as a rival to that of the Florentines. The styles of the two schools were markedly different. Florence was said to be the more realistic of the two while Siena was said to be more fanciful. In fact the inscription above the Camopilla Gate leading into the city says;
- Cor magis tibi Siena Pandit
- Siena opens her heart still wider to thee(4)
Sienese painting was said to personify dreams. This can be seen in the hallmarks of the style of the Sienese School. Above all, the Sienese painters were known for their vibrant colors. They routinely used hues never seen in paintings before and rarely seen outside the city. They employed a richness of detail that can be quite unsettling for the first time viewer. The draperies of the clothing are elegant and numerous, but it is the patterns of the fabrics and the details on the necklines that can leave the viewer breathless. The paintings are at once sumptuous yet ethereal. This lightness of being displayed in the figures and even the landscapes themselves is the final hallmark of a painting from the Sienese School.
Reputation as a Painter
In the 1400s in Siena as elsewhere in Italy and Europe the successful painter had his own workshop. In his workshop he oversaw assistants and pupils that helped him finish the commissions the painter had received. It is indicative of Sano's success that over 270 of his works survive. It is one of the paradoxes about di Pietro that because he was so successful he is often overlooked. Many of his critics say that too many of his paintings resemble each other. It is important to remember that the painter produced what the customer asked for, not what he might paint for himself.The viewer must also take note of the fact that many of these works were not produced by Sano alone. In his A History of Sienese Painting George Edgall writes:
- "It should be pointed out, however, that the monotony
- which one feels in looking at paintings labelled Sano
- di Pietro is due to the workshop assistants."(5)
In his book,Sienese Quatrocento Painting, John Pope-Hennessey furthers the argument for the quality of Sano's own paintings. He says that when the viewer looks at a painting that has been attributed solely to di Pietro one can see his sensitivity and style.
Sano's mastery of color is not in dispute. In a school of painting renowned for the use of color Sano stands out as one of the best. It isn't simply the number of color he uses, but the subtle interplay between them that makes him a master of his craft(6). Two of his paintings show off not only his mastery of color, but also his diversity as an artist.
The first of these is a polyptych made for the Church of the Gesuati. This painting is considered by many to be di Pietro's masterpiece. It is also the first piece that can be attributed solely to him. It is a riot of color. The central figure of Mary is clad in a blue robe whose folds seem to shimmer with intensity. This intensity radiates out through the figures on either side of her. What is most impressive is how the colors play off and compliment each other. This is the control of a master.
The second painting is "St. Bernadino Preaching in the Campo of Siena." In 1425 St. Bernadino gave seven sermons a day for seven weeks in the town square (campo) of Siena. Sano commemorated this event in his painting. The painting depicts a vast crowd at the center of town. The crowd is so large iit seems to fall off the edge of the painting itself. The red of the clothing of St. Bernadino's audience seems to draw itself towards the pink of the building. Instead of clashing, these two colors compliment each other. The warm colors are balanced by the blues in the sky and the canopy, both of which bisect the painting. It is a delicate balancing act perfectly executed.
Sano di Pietro's paintings are housed in the National Gallery and the Cathedral Museum of Siena, the Pinacoteca Vaticana, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Lindenau-Museum of Altenburg and the Diocesan Museum of Pienza.
Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple
Birth of the Virgin
Return of the Virgin
Flight to Egypt
- Predella of an altarpiece in five parts:
- Marriage of the Virgin (1448–52) - Tempera on wood, 32 x 46 cm. Pinacoteca, Vatican 
- Assumption of the Virgin (1448–52) - Tempera on wood, 32 x 47 cm. Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg 
- Christ Carrying Cross, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
- St Jerome (ca. 1470) - Tempera on panel 95 x 51 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Madonna And Child - Tempera on wood, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit
- Madonna and Christ Child With Saints - Tempera on wood, Lowe Art Museum, Coral Gables, Florida
- Pope-Hennessy, John & Kanter, Laurence B. (1987). The Robert Lehman Collection I, Italian Paintings. New York, Princeton: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press. ISBN 0870994794. (see index; plates 59-67)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sano di Pietro.|
- Artcyclopedia information
- Web Gallery of Art information
- Christus Rex Image Gallery
- Sano di Pietro at Panopticon Virtual Art Gallery
- Raimond Van Marle, The Italian School of Painting (The Hague, Martinus Nijoff, 1924). P. 466
- Enzo Carli, Sienese Painting (Greenwich, Conn., New York Graphis Society, 1956). P. 56
- Frank Jewett Mather Jr., A History of Italian Painting(New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962). P. 94
- See 3. P. 59
- George Harold Edgall, A History of Sienese Painting(New York, L. MacVeagh, 1932). P. 211
- Bruce Cole, Sienese Painting from its Origins to the Fifteenth Century(New York, Harper and Row, 1980). P. 207
- Bernard Berenson, Essays in the Study of Sienese Painting(New York, F.F. Sherman, 1918).
- Enzo Carli, Sienese Painting(Greenwich, Conn., New York Graphis Society, 1956).
- Bruce Cole,Sienese Painting from its Origins to the Fifteenth Century(New York, Harper and Row, 1980).
- Bruce Cole, Sienese Painting in the Age of the Renaissance(Bloomington, Indiana; University Press, 1985).
- J.A. Crowe and G.B. Calvalcasello,A History of Painting in Italy; Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth century(London, J. Murray, 1903).
- George Harold Edgall, A History of Sienese Painting(New York, L. MacVeagh, 1932).
- Timothy Hyman, Sienese Painting(New York, Thames and Hudson, 2003).
- Frank Jewett Mather Jr., A History of Italian Painting(New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962).
- Robert Oertel, Early Italian Painting to 1400(New York, Frederick A. Praeger, 1968).
- Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (1448–52) - Tempera on wood, 32 x 46 cm. Pinacoteca, Vatican 
- Birth of the Virgin (1448–52) - Tempera on wood, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor 
- Return of the Virgin (1448–52) - Tempera on wood, 30 x 46 cm. Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg 
- Nativity (ca. 1445) - Panel Pinacoteca, Vatican 
- Flight to Egypt (ca. 1445) - Panel Pinacoteca, Vatican