Posted by: debrakolkka | October 25, 2010

The Piccolomini Library – Siena

above the entrance to the Piccolomini Library

The Piccolomini Library in the Siena Cathedral was begun in 1492.  It was  commisioned by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini ( what a mouthful) and intended to house the extensive collection of books belonging to his uncle Pope Pius II.

Visitors enter through the impressive bronze gate, made in 1497 by Antonio Ormanni.

the bronze doors

After the dimly lit church the first thing you notice is the light and the exquisite colours of the frescoes which are in original condition.  Pinturicchio and his assistants painted the ceiling between 1502 and 1503.  It is divided into panels containing representations of mythical subjects, bordered wth geometrical motifs and gilt studs in relief.

the amazing ceiling

detail on the ceiling

In 1507 Pinturicchio finished the 10 scenes on the walls, illustrating the glorious events of the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pope Pius II.

one of the wall panels

2 more

detail above the panels

The ceramic floor is decorated with half moons on a blue background – the emblem of the Piccolomini family.  Piccolomini means little men.  I guess they were short.  They clearly had taste and a lot of money.

the lovely ceramic tile floor

Lining the walls in glass cases are some of the library’s books, open to display the gorgeous pages.

one of the old books

In the middle of the room is a Roman copy  from a Greek painting of  The Three Graces, as if there wasn’t enough good stuff in here already.

The Three Graces

Pinturicchio means little painter.  His name was actually Bernadino di Betto di Biagio, Betti for short.  He had another nickname  – the silent one – for he was deaf.

One of his assistants was the young Raphael and they became friends.  One of Pinturicchio’s signatures was to put himself in his pictures.  He can be recognised by his red beret and multicoloured tights of green, red and blue.  Next to him could be seen Raphael, who wore a black hat and red tights  – a couple of very stylish gentlemen I am sure.  I discovered this after my last visit (thank you Sandra H), so I will go Pinturicchio spotting next time I go.

Don’t miss the Piccolomini Library!!!


I’ve been back to Siena already and I think I spotted Pinturicchio and Raphael!

Raphael and Pinturicchio


  1. Great to see the magnificent artwork in the Piccolomini Library on the web-page!
    It’s truly an awesome place. We spent a good hour in that room alone, just to absorb the beauty of the place.
    I’m glad this art is preserved for us modern people to admire. Just think of all that creativity during the Renaissance – without television, game boys and nintendos….
    Again, Deb, thanks for your stunning photos.

  2. And I thought the other one was ornate but then there is this one! Magnificent!

  3. How Fabulous! I will have to add this to my to do list!

  4. The “Little Men” definitely had amazing taste- I can’t get over the floor tiles. And I love Betti’s penchant for self-immortalization. I mean, if you’re the one painting it, why not paint yourself in? If I have the chance to go, I’ll try to spot him!

    Thanks for sharing the great pics!

  5. Missed this on all my trips to Siena, grazie Roz

  6. Just amazing. Love these pictures. Thanks Deb.

  7. Undoubtedly, one of the best article l have come across on this precious topic. I quite agree with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates.

  8. very nice

    • It is beautiful isn’t it?

  9. […] here to see more on the walking tour, here to see more on the Duomo and here to see more on the Piccolomini Library. There is a category for Siena with more photos of my […]

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