Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio

(late 13th century)

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Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio in:  Orvieto

This master is named for a panel of the Madonna and Child that is now in the Cappella Nuova of the Duomo (see below).


Madonna di San Brizio (late 13th century) 

This panel, which depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with angels, is the autograph work of the Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio.  It was probably originally in Santa Maria Prisca, which was also dedicated to the Umbrian evangelist St Brictius.  Although the panel actually dates to the late 13th century, it was popularly believed to be an original portrait by St Luke the Evangelist, which St Brictius had left for his flock.  
  1. A relic of the blood of St Peter Parenzo was inserted into a cavity that was made in the heart of the infant, probably before it was moved to the present Duomo. 

  2. An image of St Brictius was added in 1464, but it was later removed.

In 1459, Francesco Monaldeschi (who had been bishop of Orvieto in 1418-43) proposed to build an oratory to house the image.  A chapel was duly built on the counter-facade (to the right of the main entrance) soon after his death in 1461.  The remodelling of the counter-facade of the Duomo in 1570 as part of the 16th century remodelling required its demolition, at which point the image was incorporated into the new decorative scheme.  It remained there until 1622, when it was translated with great ceremony to its current location in the Cappella Nuova.  It was incorporated into the present altar in 1715.

Frescoes in San Giovenale

The following frescoes in San Giovenale are generally attributed to the Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio:

Tree of life (ca. 1300)

This fresco is to the right of the portal.  There is a figure of St Juvenal and a kneeling female donor at the extreme right.

Madonna del Latte (ca. 1300)

This fresco high on the left wall just before the arch of the left apsidal chapel depicts the suckling Madonna enthroned before a cloth of honour, with Christ the Redeemer above. Only the upper part of the fresco survives.

Madonna and Child enthroned with saints (ca. 1300)


The larger of these two frescoes in the 4th bay of the right wall, which is dated by inscription to 1312, depicts the Madonna and Child with under a fictive aedicule, with SS Sabinus and Juvenal and donors below.  The more fragmentary fresco to the left of it probably had the same format and might well have been by the same artist.

Frescoes (ca. 1300) on the Right Pilaster


The three frescoes on the right pilaster are attributed to the Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio:

  1. Madonna and Child with saints (late 13th century)

  2. This fresco on the outer side of the pilaster depicts the Madonna and Child with SS Peter and John the Evangelist and a kneeling donor.

  3. St Agnes

  4. This damaged fresco is under the arch.   (The figure is tentatively said to be St James in the guide book of the church.  However, St Agnes is in fact identified by inscription and carries her usual attribute, the Lamb of God.

  5. Conversion of St Paul (late 13th century)

  6. This lovely fresco of Christ appearing to St Paul on the inner side of the pilaster depicts Christ above a rainbow in the top right hand corner appearing to a startled St Paul.   (Its relationship to a fresco of St Bernardino on the right wall was discussed above.)

Madonna and Child (ca. 1300?)

This panel above the door to the sacristy of Sant’ Andrea is sometimes attributed to the Maestro della Madonna di San Brizio, although there are doubts about its authenticity.

Read more:

C. Fratini, “Pittura e Miniatura ad Orvieto dal XII al XIV Secolo”, in

  1. G. della Fina and C. Fratini (Eds), “Storia di Orvieto: Medioevo”, (2007) Pisa, pp. 457-98

Return to the page on Art in:   Orvieto.