Key to Umbria: Montefalco

Pinacoteca (II)

Other Works from Montefalco

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The art gallery of Montefalco is housed in the ex-church of San Francesco:  works that survive in situ are described in the page “ Works in situ in San Francesco”.  This page describes other works in the Pinacoteca.

Christus Patiens (late 13th century)

This painted Crucifix was moved  from Santa Maria della Selva Mattutina, an abandoned church some 10 km west of Montefalco, to the Pinacoteca in 1938.  It is attributed to Rinaldo di Ranuccio of Spoleto, who is known from two signed Crucifixes, one of which is dated 1265.  It has been cut down, losing part of the central shaft and the terminal panels from the sides and the top.

The ancient church of Santa Maria della Selva Mattutina was first documented in 1334 as the home of a dissident Franciscan community that was accused of heresy.  It was documented again in 1466, when it belonged to the now-recognised Franciscan Third Order Regular (Fraticelli).  The Fraticelli of San Rocco moved here in 1526, and it became the only surviving convent in Umbria belonging to this branch of the Order when Santa Caterina di Rapicchiano, near Spello and San Lorenzo di Foligno closed soon after.  It seems likely that the Crucifix originally had a Franciscan provenance, and that it subsequently passed into the ownership of one of these communities of Fraticelli, perhaps those from San Rocco. 

Frescoes  (14th century)

The following frescoes were detached and transferred onto canvas to facilitate their transfer from the ex-church of San Giovanni di Colle Mora to the Pinacoteca in ca. 1870:
  1. the much re-painted Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, and with St Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross (illustrated here); 

  2. St Margaret in prison; and

  3. a very damaged and heavily repainted fresco of the Madonna and Child enthroned, which is attributed to the Maestro della Dormitio di Terni.

Crucifix (ca. 1461)

This processional crucifix, which came from Sant’ Agostino, is attributed to Jacopo di Vinciolo.

Frescoes (ca. 1471)

The frescoes, which had been painted on the semi-circular apse of Santa Maria di Turri after its restoration in 1471, were detached before the church was demolished in 1883.  They had to be cut into four parts and stuck to a flat surface before their transfer to the Pinacoteca. They depict:

  1. the Madonna and Child enthroned, with angels;

  2. SS Peter and Stephen to the sides; and

  3. the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, and with St Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross.

Painted doors from a tabernacle (15th century)

This panel is made up of two doors that have now been joined together to reveal the eight scenes that decorate what were their inner surfaces.  These comprise seven scenes from the life of Christ and an eighth (the bottom right) of the Crucifixion and the Madonna del Latte.  The outer surfaces are decorated with fictive red damask.   The painted scenes are attributed to Cristoforo di Jacopo da Foligno.

The panel, which was documented in Santa Maria di Turrita in 1829, was moved to the Duomo, Spoleto in 1837.  The Commune protested vigorously, and it was returned in 1839.

Coronation of the Virgin with Saints (15th century)

This panel from Sant’ Agostino, which is attributed to Cristoforo di Jacopo da Foligno, depicts the coronation of the Virgin, with SS John the Baptist and Severus.

Crucifix with the Virgin and saints (15th century)

This composite work comprises:
  1. a polychrome wooden Crucifix; and

  2. a frescoed backdrop of the Virgin, St John the Evangelist and two angels, with SS Mary Magdalene and Francis kneeling at the foot of the cross. 

It was documented in the 19th century in the convent of San Fortunato.  It almost certainly came from the church, but its original location there is unknown. 

The attribution of the two components of the work is also uncertain:

  1. The Crucifix has been attributed to a sculptor called  Ponziano di Onofrio, on the basis of a signed statue (1484) of St Antony Abbot that Fra. Antonio da Montefalco commissioned for Santa Maria delle Grazie, Massa Martana.

  2. The fresco is clearly by an artist from Foligno, perhaps Pietro di Giovanni Mazzaforte.

Maestà dei Bennati (15th century)


                                                  Detached frescoes               Aedicule with replacement fresco (1966)

These fresco fragments came from aedicule at the junction of the road to Spoleto and Via San Fortunato (see the Walk), on land owned by the Bennati family.  They were detached in 1878 and mounted on a single canvas.   

  1. The main fresco depicted the Mother and Child enthroned with two pairs of musical angels.  The lower part of the fresco, which seems to have included two standing saints, no longer survives.

  2. The three figures  now mounted below, which came from the archivolt, depict SS Antony Abbot and Bernardino of Siena, with a tondo of the Agnus Dei between them.

  3. The figures now mounted above the main scenes, which originally belonged to standing figures to the sides, depict SS Antony of Padua and Clare of Montefalco.   Again, only the upper parts survive

The work is attributed to Pierantonio Mezzastris, based on its similarity to the signed Maestà Bella in an aedicule near Carpello, outside Foligno.

Madonna and Child (ca. 1470)

This altarpiece from Sant’ Illuminata is a copy of the icon of the Madonna and Child in Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.   This church belonged to the Lombard Congregation of the Augustinian Order, which also acquired and rebuilt Sant’ Illuminata in 1491.  It is likely that the copy of the icon had been made for the church in Rome and that the friars subsequently transferred it to Montefalco.  

The panel in Montefalco is generally dated in relation to the (now lost) copy of this icon that Alessandro Sforza, lord of Pesaro commissioned from Melozzo da Forli in ca. 1470.  There is some debate about its attribution:

  1. It is usually thought, on stylistic ground, to be another copy by Melozzo da Forli or his workshop.  

  2. However, yet another copy of the icon that was in the Charles Loeser Collection, Florence until 1959 is generally attributed to Antoniazzo Romano, who was a prolific painter of this kind of image (as set out in the page on this artist).  Federico Zeri attributed the panel in Montefalco to him.

  3. Laura Teza has recently suggested, on stylistic ground, that it is by the Perugian, Bartolomeo Caporali, who was documented in Rome in 1467 among the artists working for Pope Paul II at the Chiesa di San Marco (as referenced in the page on this artist).

[The image in this Hungarian website has obvious relevance to the debate, but I have not been able to find out anything else about it.]

Three Saints (ca. 1488)

This altarpiece from the high altar of Sant’ Illuminata is attributed to Antoniazzo Romano.   It is likely that (as for the panel above) it had been painted for Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome and subsequently transferred to Montefalco.

The altarpiece depicts three saints who are identified by inscription as SS Vincent of Saragossa, Illuminata and Nicholas of Tolentino.  Recent restoration has shown that these inscriptions are not original and that:

  1. the central figure of “Sant’ Illuminata” originally had a wheel (later over-painted but revealed in the restoration), and so had been adapted from an image of St Catherine of Alexandria: and

  2. “St Nicholas of Tolentino” originally had a Franciscan habit that had been over-painted, and so had been adapted from an image of a Franciscan, probably St Antony of Padua.  

This over-painting was almost certainly done at the time that the panel was transferred to Montefalco.

The presence of St Catherine of Alexandria at the centre of the composition suggests that the altarpiece was painted for an altar dedicated to her.  The Portuguese Cardinal Jorge Costa, who had bought the Cappella di Santa Caterina in Santa Maria del Popolo from Cardinal Domenico della Rovere in 1488, almost certainly commissioned it: this probably accounts for the presence of two Iberian saints (SS Vincent of Saragossa and Antony of Padua).  The panel was probably transferred to Montefalco after the death of Cardinal Costa in 1508.

Works by or Attributed to Francesco Melanzio

The Pinacoteca contains a number of works by or attributed to Francesco Melanzio:

Madonna and Child with saints (1487)

A surviving document records that Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino commissioned this panel from “Francesco pentore” in 1486.  The inscription along the top of the frame again records Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino, and gives the date 1487, while the inscription at the bottom identifies the artist as Francesco Melanzio.   This is his earliest known work.

Pietro Paolo di Giovanni Marino was the prior of the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino, and he commissioned this panel for the confraternity’s chapel in Sant’ Agostino.  The document in which he commissioned the work prescribes that it should depict the Madonna and Child with SS Sebastian, Peter, Paul and Dominic, with other saints, including St Nicholas of Tolentino, in the predella.  If the predella was ever painted, it was subsequently lost, while St Nicholas of Tolentino replaced St Dominic in the panel itself.  

Madonna and Child with saints (1488)

Angelo di Bartolomeo, the rector of Santa Maria di Turrita, and his associates Evangelista di Cecco and Pellegrino di Francesco commissioned this altarpiece from Francesco Melanzio in 1485, but it took some time to complete: it is dated by inscription to 1488.  It depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with SS Sebastian, Fortunatus, Severus and Clare of Montefalco.

Madonna and Child with saints (1498)

This altarpiece from San Fortunato, which is signed by Francesco Melanzio and dated by inscription, depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with:
  1. SS Antony of Padua, Bernardino of Siena, Francis on the left; and

  2. SS Fortunatus, Louis of Toulouse and Severus on the right. 

It was originally used as a processional banner, and was probably commissioned during an outbreak of plague.  St Fortunatus holds a model of Montefalco and the staff that he used to use to drive his oxen, which burst into leaf when he died.

Detached frescoes (ca. 1500)


These damaged fresco fragments, which were detached in 1877 from a tabernacle outside San Fortunato, are attributed to Francesco Melanzio.  They comprise:

  1. a figure of St Francis;

  2. the Madonna and Child enthroned; and

  3. tondi of the Annunciation.

Madonna del Soccorso (1504)

This panel (originally a processional banner), which came from the chapel of the Confraternita di San Nicolò da Tolentino in Sant’ Agostino, is attributed to Francesco Melanzio, the author of the signed work that came from the same chapel (above).  Members of the confraternity are depicted among the kneeling figures to the left, which suggests that they commissioned the work.  A lost inscription gave the date.

The surviving inscription along the top of the frame identifies the subject as the Madonna del Soccorso (of Succour).  As is usual in this iconography, the Virgin clubs a devil that tries to possess a child.   A female supplicant (presumably the mother) kneels under the Virgin's protective cloak.

Madonna and Child with musical angels (1510)

This fresco, which is is attributed to Francesco Melanzio and dated by inscription, was detached in 1877 from a tabernacle at Camiano Grande, outside Montefalco. 

Coronation of the Virgin (early 16th century)

This glazed terracotta panel was original part of a larger relief that was in a tabernacle on Via delle Grazie, some 2 km from Montefalco.  It was removed after a road accident in 1984 and restored before its transfer to the Pinacoteca.  It is attributed to the workshop of Andrea della Robbia.

Madonna and Child with saints (1602)

This altarpiece, which is signed by the Perugian artist Pietro Rancanelli and dated by inscription, came from San Clemente.  It depicts the Madonna and Child and SS Roch, Clement, Francis and Clare of Assisi.  The donor, Fabio Tempestivi is depicted at the lower left: the figure of St Clement might well be a portrait of Pope Clement VIII, who appointed Fabio Tempestivi as Archbishop of Dubrovnik in 1602. 

The composition of the panel is based on that of Raphael’s Madonna di Foligno (1511-2), which was at this time on the high altar of Sant’ Anna, the church of a Franciscan nunnery in Foligno.

Madonna and Child with saints (1605)

The inscription on this altarpiece records that Troilo Signorelli of Perugia had initiated the commissioning of this work but had died before it was completed, so his wife, Ortensia Graziani had brought it to fruition in 1605.  It was recorded in the 17th century in the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista in San Francesco al Prato, Perugia.  It subsequently passed to the Galleria Nazionale, Perugia and then, by unknown means, via San Leonardo, Montefalco to the Pinacoteca Comunale.

The panel depicts the Madonna and Child with the young St John the Baptist and SS Nicholas of Bari and Francis.  It is attributed to Simeone Ciburri.

Assumption of St Mary Magdalene (ca. 1732)

This small panel, which is attributed to the Roman artist Michelangelo Cerruti, is from Santa Maria Maddalena.  It is very similar to a fresco (1732) by this artist in the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Rome.

Assumption of the Virgin (18th century)

This altarpiece by Antonio Maria Garbi is from San Filippo Neri and probably passed into the civic collection when this church was adapted to house the collection in 1871.  It is a faithful copy of an altarpiece (1637) by Guido Reni from San Filippo Neri, Perugia, which is now in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon.

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