GJ 67

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1486–May 18 1551) was an Italian Renaissance-Mannerist painter active predominantly in Siena. He is considered one of the last undiluted representatives of the Sienese school of painting.


Domenico was born in Montaperti, near Siena, the son of Giacomo di Pace, a peasant who worked on the estate of Lorenzo Beccafumi. Seeing his talent for drawing, Lorenzo adopted him, and commended him to learn painting from Mechero, a lesser Sienese artist. In 1509 he traveled to Rome, but soon returned to Siena, and while the Roman forays of two Sienese artists of roughly his generation (Il Sodoma and Peruzzi) had imbued them with elements of the Umbrian-Florentine Classical style, Beccafumi's style remains, in striking ways, provincial. In Siena, he painted religious pieces for churches and of mythological decorations for private patrons, only mildly influenced by the gestured Mannerist trends dominating the neighboring Florentine school. There are medieval eccentricities, sometimes phantasmagoric, superfluous emotional detail and a misty non-linear, often jagged quality to his drawings, with primal tonality to his coloration that separates him from the classic Roman masters.

Pavement of Duomo di Siena

In addition to painting, he also directed the celebrated pavement of the cathedral of Siena from 1517-1544; a task that took over a century and a half. The pavement shows vast designs in commesso work—white marble, that is, engraved with the outlines of the subject in black, and having borders inlaid with rich patterns in many colours. From the year Beccafumi was engaged in continuing this pavement. He made very ingenious improvements in the technical processes employed, and laid down scenes from the stories of Ahab and Elijah, of Melchisedec , of Abraham and of Moses He made a triumphal arch and an immense mechanical horse for the procession of the emperor Charles V on his entry into Siena.

Critical assessment and legacy

Compared to the equilibrated, geometric, and self-assured Florentine style, the Sienese style of painting, edges into a more irrational and emotionally-unbalanced world. Buildings are often transected, and perspectives awkward. The setting is often hallucinogenic; the colors, discordant. For example, in the Nativity (San Martino, Siena) hovering angels form an architectural hoop, figures enter from the shadows of a ruined arch. In his Annunciation, the Virgin resides in a world neither in day or dusk, she and the Angel Gabriel shine while the house is in shambles. In Christ in Limbo (Pinacoteca, Siena), an atypically represented topic, Christ sways in contraposto as he enters a netherworld of ruins and souls. S.J. Freedberg, compares his vibrant eccentric figures to those of the Florentine mannerist contemporary Rosso Fiorentino yet more "optical and fluid". While all the elements of the expected religious scenes are here, it is like a play in which all the actors have taken atypical costumes, and forgotten some of their lines.

In Medieval Italy, Siena had been an artistic, economic, and political rival of Florence; but wars and natural disasters caused a decline by the 15th century. Beccafumi's style is among the last in a line of Sienese artists, a medieval believer of miracles awaking in Renaissance reality.


Partial anthology of works

  • The Miraculous Communion of Saint Catherine of Siena (1513) - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Saint Catherine of Siena Receiving the Stigmata (1513) - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Trinity triptych (1513) - Oil on wood, 152 x 228 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • Marriage of St. Catherine (1514-1515) - Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • St. Paul (1515) - Oil on wood, 190 x 150 cm, Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, Siena
  • Marcia (1519, National Gallery, London)
  • Stigmatization of St. Catherine of Siena (1515) - Oil on wood, 208 x 156 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • The Betrothal of the Virgin (1518) - Fresco, 295 x 304 cm, Oratory of San Bernardino, Siena
  • Tanaquil (1519) - Oil on wood, 92 x 53 cm, National Gallery, London
  • Self Portrait (1520)
  • St. Lucy (1521) - Oil on wood, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine (1521) - Hermitage, St. Petersburg
  • Frescoes in Bindi-Segardi Palace, Siena
  • Frescoes of scenes from roman history in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena (1529-1535)
  • The Holy Family with Young Saint John (1523-1524) - Oil on panel, diameter 86 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
  • Fall of the Rebel Angels (c. 1524) - Oil on wood, 347 x 227 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • Fall of the Rebel Angels (c. 1528) - Oil on wood, 347 x 225 cm, San Niccolò al Carmine, Siena
  • Vision of St. Catherine of Sienna (1528) - Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa
  • The Baptism of Christ (1528) - Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa
  • The Nativity - Allentown Art Museum, Allentown
  • Venus and Cupid with Vulcan (1528) - New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans
  • Holy Family with St. John (c. 1530) -Oil on panel, diameter 84 cm, Uffizi, Florence
  • Holy Family with Saint Anne - Private collection
  • Escape of Clelia and the Roman Virgins - Uffizi, Florence
  • Punishment of Dathan - Pisa Cathedral
  • Drawing for Christ in Limbo (Stolen)
  • Christ in Limbo (1535) - Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • Moses and the Golden Calf (1536-1537) - Oil on wood, 197 x 139 cm, Pisa Cathedral
  • Saint Bernard of Siena Preaching (1537) - Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • Saint Anthony and the Miracle of the Mule (1537) - Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • Saint Francis receives the stigmata (1537) - Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • Birth of the Virgin (1543) - Oil on wood, 233 x 145 cm, Accademia, Siena
  • Annunciation (1545-1546) - Oil on wood, Saints Martino and Vittorio, Sarteano
  • Coronation of the Virgin (1540s) - Santo Spirito, Siena
  • Madonna with infant and St. John (1540) - Oil on panel, 90 x 65 cm, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
  • Holy Family with Angels - National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Holy Family and St. John - Alte Pinakothek, Munich
  • Statues of Angels (1548-1550) - Presbytery of Siena Cathedral
  • Drawing of Abraham
  • St. Peter - Woodcut, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Angels drawing (1524-25) - San Francisco


  • Painting in Italy 1500-1600, S.J. Freedberg, (Penguin History of Art, 2nd Edition, 1983).


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