Key to Umbria: Spello

This chapel (the 1st on the left), which now serves as the Baptistery, was probably built in the 15th century.

Frescoes (late 15th century)


                                                     Apse                                                                     Right wall

The earliest surviving reference to these frescoes dates to 1897, when they were in a ruinous state.  They were restored in the 1970s and attributed to an artist from Foligno.  The frescoes depict:

  1. Entrance arch - five tondi:

  2. the monogram “IHS” at the top;

  3. busts of young men on each side; and

  4. arms of Perugia on each side, at the bottom.

  5. Left wall:

  6. SS Peter and Paul (flanking the window);

  7. Baglioni arms (under the architrave of the window).

  8. Back wall (illustrated above):

  9. Pietà (in the niche to the left);

  10. Annunciation (in the spandrels of the entrance arch);

  11. hand of God between seraphim (at the top of the arch); and

  12. in the shallow niche:

  13. -Christ in judgement, within a mandorla of angels (above);

  14. -Crucifixion, with a kneeling donor in armour to the left (see below); and

  15. -SS Catherine of Alexandria, Francis and John the Baptist (to the left); and

  16. -St Andrew, a bishop saint and a female saint (to the right).

  17. Right wall:

  18. Madonna and child enthroned with two angels; and

  19. the penitent St Jerome; and

  20. Vault: the lamb of God.

The fragmentary inscription below the fresco in the shallow niche on the back wall has been partly deciphered: QUESTA OPERA A FACTA FARE GRIFONE FIGLIOLU DE L[A] DNA A[TALA]NNTA ....  This indicates that the work was commissioned by Federico (Grifonetto) Baglioni, the son of the widowed Atalanta, who is presumably the donor depicted in the fresco of the Crucifixion (mentioned above, and picked out to the right of St John the Baptist in this detail).  Federico, who was born soon after the death of his father, Grifone Baglioni in 1477, assumed his father’s name in ca. 1489 and was known subsequently known as Grifonetto.  The frescoes must have been commissioned after this date and before Grifonetto was murdered in 1500. 

Corrado Fratini (referenced below) argues convincingly that the circumstances of this murder probably explain the reason for the subsequent neglect of the work.  Grifonetto had been one of the perpetrators of the the carnage of the  “Nozze Rosse” (red wedding or wedding of blood) of Astorre Baglioni, which convulsed the Baglioni family in 1500.   His faction was unable to hold on to power, and many of its members, including Grifonetto, died in the subsequent fighting.   Gian Paolo and Troilo Baglioni, who belonged to victorious faction, underlined their newly-established dominance of Spello by embellishing the Cappella Bella, Santa Maria Maggiore, while the chapel that commemorated their murdered enemy was allowed to descend into ruin.

Read more: 
C. Fratini, “Da Grifonetto a Troilo: due Momenti della Committenza Artistica dei Baglioni”,  in M. Cianini Pierotti (Ed.), “Epigrafi, documenti e ricerche, Studi in memoria di Giovanni Forni” (1996) Perugia

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