Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art



Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano


Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico

Fra Carnevale

Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

Gentile da Fabriano


Domenico Ghirlandaio


Giorgio Vasari

Giotto di bondone

Giovanni da Modena

Giovanni da San Giovanni

Giovanni di Francesco

Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Monaco

Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli


masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of sain tfrancis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello


piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti



sandro botticelli

sano di pietro


simone martini

spinello aretino

taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio



Simone Martini, Equestrian portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano,1328-30, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena [1]

Travel guide for Tuscany

The Sala del Mappamondo (the World Map Room) and the lost wheel map of Ambrogio Lorenzetti


In 1345, Ambrogio Lorenzetti created a world map, the mappamondo in Siena's Palazzo Publico. The Sala del Mappamondo (the World Map Room), used to be the headquarters of the Council of the Republic. The room was so-called after the enormous wooden disc by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, depicting the territory of the Republic. Of very large dimensions (roughly 4.83 m in diameter) and round in its form, it was mounted on a single, central pivot and rotated to bring, successively, various portions nearer to the viewer. The Sienese desire to have such an image relates to the popularity of written 'geographies' and the appearance of portolan maps in the late thirteenth century. In a way, the mappamondo might be styled the epitome of the Sienese interest in images and imaging. If Ambrogio's decorations in the Sala dei Pace laid before viewers Siena idealized, Ambrogio's map brought the world under their gaze.
Recent archival finds indicate that, rather than a mappamondo, it was a map of the Sienese state, a carta tapografica, painted around 14-24- and enlarged once in14-59 and quite possibly at other times, that was actually located here. [0]

The Sala del Mappamondo off the chapel contains two of Simone Martini's greatest works. On the left is his masterpiece, Maestà. Incredibly, this was his very first painting, finished in 1315 (he went over it again in 1321). Cleaned and restored in the early 1990s, it's the next generation's answer to Duccio's groundbreaking work on the same theme painted just 4 years earlier and now in the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana. Martini's paintings tend to be characterized by richly patterned fabrics, and the gown of the enthroned Mary is no exception.

Those fabrics can be seen again across this great hall in Simone Martini's other masterwork, the fresco of Guidoriccio da Fogliano, where the captain of the Sienese army rides his charger across the territory he has just conquered (Montemassi, in 1328). Recently, art historians have disputed the attribution of this work to Martini, claiming that it was either a slightly later work or even a 16th-century fake. Part of what sparked the debate was the 1980 discovery of another, slightly older scarred fresco lower on the wall here. This earlier painting depicts two figures standing in front of a wooden-fenced castle. Some claim this is the fresco Martini painted, while those who support the authenticity of the Guidoriccio attribute this older fresco to Duccio, Pietro Lorenzetti, or Memmo di Filippuccio.

Unknown Master (first quarter of 14th century), Castle on a Hill, 1300-25, fresco in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

All that remains of the Mappamondo that Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted in 1345 for the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, are the markings left by its installation on the wall opposite Simone Martini's Maestà. Disturbingly absent/present, this ghost of a work does not have to remain a casualty of endless debate on the fresco of Guidoriccio above. Medieval cartographic genres and traditions of map display can be applied toward a fresh interpretation of the lost Lorenzetti. By the same token, the wheel map opens discussion of the processes by which a changing configuration of images articulated a mythology of the Sienese state.

The world map that Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted in 1345 for the communal palace of Siena has long since vanished, but not without leaving spectacular traces of its unique design. A rotating wheel, the work scratched a series of great concentric rings into the surface of the wall on which it hung, thereby damaging a prior layer of painting concealed beneath. These rings and other aspects of its installation were discovered in 1980-81 when the fresco of Guidoriccio da Folignano was subjected to technical examination. In the middle register of the wall just below the image of the war captain, conservators exposed to view a previously unknown trecento fresco of the highest quality. The newly revealed scene, two men in the act of surrendering a town (hereafter referred to as the "New Town"), bears the imprint of the revolving map that superseded it. A fresco border painted in black around the circumference of the wheel, and serving to integrate it into a system of monumental mural decoration, was also partially recovered. As far as the cartographic image itself is concerned, a scarred patch of earlier painting admittedly amounts to an empty cipher. Yet the visible signs of the work's display and use, exceptional in the fragmentary history of medieval cartography, mitigate the absence of the monument that gave to the council hall its popular name, the Sala del Mappamondo.

To date, study of Lorenzetti's map has focused on reconstructing its intriguing pictorial content. Several generations of scholars have sought to visualize the lost image by mining archival sources, glossing apparently conflicting descriptions, and identifying later works for which it may have served as model. Since the recent restoration campaign, attention has been given to how physical evidence of the map's installation may bear upon the superposition, and hence relative dating, of the paintings on the Guidoriccio wall. In what follows, I shall attempt to open the discussion to broader issues raised by the map's enigmatic relation to known cartographic traditions, its location in the Palazzo Pubblico, and its rotary operation.

The first part of the study reviews the documentation concerning the map in order to clarify its physical nature. Here, the tradition of medieval display maps puts into new perspective the minimal clues about the Lorenzetti with which we are now sadly left. With regard to the cartographic image itself, the second part considers the crucial problem, not heretofore adequately addressed, of how the wheel's rotation would have been implicated in the formal depiction of the world. For the revolving map to have worked visually, its pictorial composition, including any writing, must have met the demands of a shifting orientation. With this in mind, it may be possible to single out a specific class of maps as Lorenzetti's most likely point of departure. The development of a particular cartographic genre, I am proposing, underlay the very possibility of the commission. We cannot hope, nor perhaps should we try, to reconstruct the "look" of Lorenzetti's painting. But the artistic context that enabled the con(re)ception of such an extraordinary work can be interrogated.

Parts three and four explore the work's production of meaning as a function of its place within a constellation of framing images. Surrounding pictorial material activated the signifying potential of both the cartographic image and its performance as a wheel. On these two levels also, Lorenzetti's painting reciprocally engaged earlier decoration in the hall to new ends. Just as the wheel map revised or expanded on ideas previously articulated in the Sala del Consiglio, so also it was in turn incorporated into a continuously evolving ensemble. Recalling the role of mappaemundi both in ecclesiastical and royal settings, the Sienese treatment of the theme displaced age-old traditions to further the secular ideology of the commune. Lorenzetti's map contributed to the elaboration of a civic agenda by appropriating competing discursive regimes. Finally, I suggest in part five that the Mappamondo may have been part of a programmatic transformation of the Sala del Consiglio itself.

The Cartographic Artifact

Scholars agree on some basic features of Lorenzetti's map. The great majority of specialists visualize it as a rotating disk located on the Guidoriccio wall below the equestrian figure, where the scoring is now visible. Predictably, Gordon Moran and Michael Mallory, who deny the authenticity of the Guidoriccio, argue a different view. But holding the Mappamondo hostage to the Guidoriccio, as Moran and Mallory do, will not help advance understanding of either work.

The written evidence may be easily summarized. The date of the commission and its attribution to Ambrogio are first recorded in the chronicle of Agnolo di Tura del Grasso at the end of a series of miscellaneous entries for the year 1345: "El Napamondo, che e in palazo de' segnori di Siena fu fatto in questo anno; fecelo maestro Ambruogio Lorenzetti dipentore da Siena." The Concistoro authorized the restoration of the Mappamondo in 1393. The substantial sum paid then to three painters for their colors, including azure, suggests a pictorial surface of monumental proportions. A glass window was ordered to be made "iuxta mappamundum" in 1413. When preaching in the Campo in 1427, Saint Bernardino of Siena reminded his audience of the image of Italy "nel Lappamondo." Ghiberti called Lorenzetti's work in the Palazzo Pubblico a cosmografia - a term he used both as a synonym for a map of the inhabited world and as the title for Ptolemy's Geography. Remarking on what could only be the same work, the Sienese antiquarian Sigismondo Tizio (1455-1528) retained the term mappamundi entrenched in local tradition, whereas later in the sixteenth century Vasari followed Ghiberti in referring to the Lorenzetti as a cosmografia.

So far as I am aware, Tizio, writing in the mid-1520s, provides the earliest description of the map's rotation and location: "Hoc vero anno [1344] mappamundum volubilem rotundumque in aula secunda balistarum publici palatii ille Vir [Ambrosius Laurentii] fecit. Pinxerat quoque aulam primam in scalarum primarum vertice, quae aula pacis nuncupatur" (In the year 1344 Ambrogio Lorenzetti made a turning, circular map of the world in the second hall of armaments in the Palazzo Pubblico. He also painted the first room [of armaments] at the top of the stairs, which is called the hall of peace). Two chambers on the second floor of the Palazzo Pubblico displayed armaments: the Sala del Consiglio and the adjoining Sala dei Nove, or meeting room of the ruling oligarchy, which had come to be called the Sala della Pace after Lorenzetti's famous Good Government. Both rooms were sometimes alternatively designated "Sala delle Balestre." Tizio distinguishes them in the order of their proximity to the stairs and further indicates that it is the second such room, i.e., the Sala del Consiglio, as opposed to the first or Sala della Pace, which contains the mappamundus volubilis. In a volume of addenda to his history, Tizio moreover specifies that the Mappamondo hung on the Guidoriccio wall below the equestrian image: "Hic ille [Guido Riccius] est, qui in aula Dominorum Senensium pictus est in Capite Mappe Mundi rotunde, ubi Montis Massici picta est obsidio" (Here is Guidoriccio, who is painted in the hall of the Sienese lords above the circular world map, where the siege of Montemassi is painted). The placement of the Mappamondo below the Guidoriccio is reiterated in an early seventeenth-century source. Where Tizio saw the Mappamondo, we now see the pattern of concentric rings scored into the wall.

The Mappamondo so dominated its spatial setting that it eventually dictated the name of the hall. Although I have been unable to find the appellation "Sala del Mappamondo" in official records before 1534, it may have become a popular term of reference at an earlier date. The object now silhouetted on the Guidoriccio wall, measuring about 15 feet 10 inches (4.83 m) in diameter, was sufficiently imposing in size to have been the Mappamondo. By Tizio's day, the Mappamondo may have already been cut down to make way for the current doorway between the Sala del Mappamondo and Sala dei Nove. Certainly by 1529 it was reduced in size to accommodate Sodoma's fresco of Saint Victor at right.

Eighteenth-century descriptions introduce new elements, but the discontinuity is not strong enough to warrant the conclusion that they refer to a different work. G. A. Pecci, G. Faluschi, and G. della Valle, it is true, depart from the vocabulary used by earlier witnesses: they speak of a "carta topografica nella quale appariva delineato tutto lo Stato di Siena." I shall address the import of their description in the following section. My point here is that their similar accounts of the object's rotation confirm they were looking at the same mappamundus volubilis as Tizio. Using slightly varying phrases, all three writers compare the map to a turning wheel: "si vede un' avanzo molto lacero di carta topografica . . . fatta a guisa di ruota da potersi muovere e girare."

The 1980-81 restoration campaign provided incontrovertible physical evidence that the circle imprinted on the Guidoriccio wall was occupied by a revolving disk. As specified in the eighteenth-century sources, it indeed turned on a single pivot, or stylus, by which it was affixed to the wall. The height at which the disk was installed suggests that its rotation could be effected manually from the floor. In his Lettere Senese of 1785, della Valle echoes Pecci (1730, 1752) and Faluschi (1784) in reporting "un avvanzo molto lacero di carta topografica," but adds that it was painted "in tela, di cui ora non resta che qualche piccolo cencio." Evidently eighteenth-century witnesses had before them merely a scrap of the map. The topographic depiction of the Sienese state then visible could thus have been but a small fragment of the whole.

The cumulative evidence leads to the conclusion that the rotating disk beneath the Guidoriccio was Lorenzetti's Mappamondo. In contrast, the argument put forward by Moran and Mallory is rather weak. They believe that the rings scratched into the intonaco of the "New Town" and circular border in fresco correspond not to the Lorenzetti work of 1345, but rather to a representation of the Sienese state commissioned in 1424. Based on his reading of a mid-fifteenth-century inventory of mobile objects in the Palazzo, Moran situates the Lorenzetti instead in the Sala dei Nove. This double proposition strikes me as a desperate attempt at obfuscation for the sake of sustaining an attack on the traditional attribution of the Guidoriccio.

A commission for the representation of the Sienese state was contemplated in December 1424, but its terms could suggest a series of topographic views as easily as a map, and the place of display is unclear: "Deliberatum etiam quod pingantur sive designentur ad bazeum omnes terre acquisite et recuperate tempore present is regiminis in sala balistarum, sive in sala magna Consilii, prout alias per eos deliberabitur" (It was also deliberated that all lands acquired and retaken at the time of the present government be painted or represented at/on [?] in the Sala delle Balestre, or the great hall of the Council, accordingly others [other lands] as it will be deliberated by them).

Was this image of the Sienese state executed? In any event, it could not have replaced the Mappamondo from which Saint Bernardino recalled an image of Italy, a work still visible in 1427. Moreover, the inventory of mobile objects cited by Moran merely places the Mappamondo in a "sala delle balestre" of which there were two on the second floor. Given the explicit distinction Tizio makes between the room of the map's location and the Sala della Pace, Moran's interpretation of the ambiguously worded inventory seems gratuitous. Thus, despite Moran's and Mallory's objections, the scholarly consensus concerning the installation of the Mappamondo is not seriously challenged.

However, the material of the work's support has remained a matter of confusion. Many scholars have assumed that Lorenzetti's work of 1345 was painted either on panel or vellum. As a result, some have brushed aside della Valle's statement that the map was painted on cloth; others have pointed to his remark as an indication that the Lorenzetti was eventually replaced with a later work. Yet there is no good reason to doubt della Valle.

Given the size of Lorenzetti's map and the manner of its installation, a wood panel would have been impractical; a tondo of just under 16 feet (4.83 m) in diameter would have been far too heavy to rotate on a single pivot. Vellum, on the other hand, is nearly as light and perhaps even more durable than cloth, but would hardly have provided an elegant solution. To yield a surface the size and shape of Lorenzetti's map, numerous skins would have had to be stitched together and cut into a circle. Easily nine deer hides, about the size of the late thirteenth-century Hereford and Duchy of Cornwall maps (respectively 5 ft. 2 in. x 4 ft. 4 in. [1.58 x 1.30 m] and 5 ft. 5 in. [1.64 m] square), would have been required. Indeed, the giant Ebstorf map of around 1300 (11 ft. 9 in. [3.57 m] square) was painted on thirty goatskin panels sewn together. The necessarily patchwork quality of the resulting pictorial surface seems unlikely to have appealed aesthetically to Lorenzetti or his patrons. Moreover, how would vellum have been mounted on a rotating frame? Cloth, not vellum, could have been stretched over an open wooden framework necessary to minimize the weight of the artifact. The concentric rings scratched into the fresco beneath the map would seem logically to reflect either the construction of such a stretcher or perhaps a series of spaced rollers attached to the back of the framework. Rollers may have served to hold the frame parallel to the wall; otherwise, the wheel map, handled from below, could have been prone to tilting.

Furthermore, the use of doth as the support of choice for display maps is well documented. Around 1299-1300, a mappamundi painted on cloth was inventoried in the possession of King Edward I of England; of this lost object, nothing else is known. Fabric appears to have become an increasingly common support for cartographic images in the fifteenth century, and Rene of Anjou (1409-1480), king of Hungary, Jerusalem, Naples, and Sicily, had many such items. In 1493, the Sienese cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini gave to Siena Cathedral a circular map of the world painted on cloth ("Cosmographiam Ptolomei, quam Mappam Mundi appellant, lintea tela depictam . . . in forma rotunda"); it had originally been made in the early 1460s for Piccolomini's uncle Pope Pius II by the Venetian Antonio Leonardi. Might this commission have on some level played off the Mappamondo in the Palazzo Pubblico?

The disk silhouetted on the Guidoriccio wall conforms to the expected shape for the genre of image, a mappamundi or mappamondo, specified in the earliest references to Lorenzetti's work. Yet this structural coincidence between physical artifact and cartographic image already begins to reveal the remarkable character of the commission. In the medieval period, the representation of the world as circular rarely extended to the shape of the support. Such a correspondence between circular map image and an artifact's physical form occurs, for example, with metalwork tables recorded in the treasuries of secular rulers, but not usually in the case of wall maps. The few large vellum mappaemundi that survive from the thirteenth century, indicative of a widely disseminated tradition, adopt a quadrilateral format (the Hereford retains the neck of the hide) in which the circular image of the world is inscribed. One possible exception that springs to mind, however, is significant for what it suggests about the aims of the Lorenzetti commission. The lost mappamundi painted in 1239 for the great hall of Winchester Castle could well have been a circular object, for it was conceived in all likelihood as a pendant to a Wheel of Fortune installed three years earlier on the wall above the royal dais.


Art in Tuscany | Simone Martini | The Maestà del Palazzo Pubblico di Siena (Madonna with Angels and Saints)

[0] G. Moran, "Studi sui mappamondo," Notizie d'arte (February, 1982): 6-7. Source: Gordon Moran and Michael Mallory, The Guido Riccio controversy and resistance to critical thinking, Syracuse Scholar (1979-1991), Vol. 11, Iss. 1 [1991], Art. 5
[1] This fresco is situated below the Guidoriccio and is variously attributed, but convincingly argued to be the real Guidoriccio by Simone Martini.
There is evidence of marks around the face and figure, consistent with damage caused by the throwing of pallets. When the fresco was uncovered, the figure was hidden by a cover of blue paint. Guidoriccio was a mercenary soldier, who changed sides in 1333 and fought for the opposition. It appears far more convincing that the citizens of Sienna would show their disapproval in this way, rather than celebrating a portrait in their town hall of a person who had become their enemy and a traitor to them. The grooves are left by the rotation of the Carte Topa grafica installed in the 15th Century.
At the turn of the century, in a foot note to his volume on fourteenth century Siena, Adolfo Venturi stated that the figure on horse back was not a Simone Martini but was added as a figure to go with the map on the wall below - there are various iconographical disparities which substantiate his claim. Venturi attributed the mappammondo to Abbrogio Lorenzetti. This important observation was not repeated in any subsequent art historical literature GM: "It's one thing to have something published, it's another to have it discussed by future scholars I missed it myself. In 1977 I could have been accused of plagiarism: He saw the same thing."Gordan Moran has been campaigning with his colleague Michael Mallory, since the late seventies, for the reassessment of the Guidorccio da Fogliano fresco in the Plazzo Publico in Siena. He has contested its attribution to Simone Martini (c1284-1344) on many fronts. Despite what appears to be conclusive evidence the art establishment and government of Siena maintain the accepted attribution and have employed many techniques to discredit the findings of Gordon Moran (not stopping at the manipulation of evidence to make their case appear in a better light.) This controversy has added importance because it is holding up the possible discovery of other frescos, in the same room, that would be of the greatest artistic and art historical value. [Heretics 1: The Simone Martini Cover-up]

[2] See, most recently, Kupfer, "The Lost Wheel Map of Ambrogio Lorenzetti," from which the following summary is drawn.
Marcia Kupfer, The lost wheel map of Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Art Bulletin, June 01, 1996

[3] Ambrogio Lorenzetti (d. 1347), a 14th century Italian painters born in Siena, one of the two Lorenzetti brothers. He belonged to the Sienese School, dominated by the stylized Byzantine tradition.
While Ghiberti regarded Ambrogio as the greatest of Sienese 14th-century painters, he was apparently unaware of Pietro’s existence. Vasari, who misread the inscription on a panel of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Angels (Florence, Uffizi) as PETRUS LAURATI DE SENIS, did not recognize Pietro’s connection with Ambrogio. The fraternal relationship was specified, however, in a lost inscription below frescoes on the façade of the hospital of S Maria della Scala, Siena, first recorded by Ugurieri-Azzolini: HOC OPUS FECIT PETRUS LAURENTII ET AMBROSIUS EIUS FRATER M.CCC.XXX.V. There is also evidence that the brothers borrowed tools from each other, although it is unlikely that they collaborated regularly or that they maintained a joint workshop over any lengthy period. There is no doubt that they shared artistic ideas and ambitions, not so much as a result of their family connection, but because they were both major masters and exponents of naturalism. Both painters’ innovations were too radical to be assimilated by their immediate followers, but they foreshadow developments in the 15th century.
Ghiberti styled Ambrogio a ‘most perfect’ and learned master. He was certainly the most inventive Sienese artist of the early 14th century. Many of his innovations in naturalism are without parallel; many of his works are characterized by iconography that is equally original. His lost ‘Roman stories’ from the exterior of the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, suggest an ability to deal with highly unusual subject matter; the lost Mappamondo, an ability to create new forms. The frescoes on the walls of the Room of the Nine (Sala dei Nove) or Room of Peace (Sala della Pace) in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena are one of the masterworks of early renaissance secular painting.
His career is marked by periodic shifts and a constant search for innovation: works of the 1310s and 1320s display a pursuit of naturalism that recurred throughout his career; those from the early 1330s suggest that the artist was seeking to emulate the decorative effects of Simone Martini and his circle; in Ambrogio’s late work much of this ornament disappears, or is severely restrained, while his distinctive use of inscribed banderoles implies the desire to push content beyond the traditional pictorial means of monumental painting.

Holiday homes in the Tuscan Maremma | Podere Santa Pia | Artist and writer's residency


Podere Santa Pia



Val d'Orcia

Siena, Palazzo Sansedoni
Siena, Piazza del Campo
Siena, duomo


The history of Siena has been made on the Piazza del Campo, or better, 'il Campo', as the Sienese call it. Here the Sienese organised their spectacular and terrible 'games', later replaced by the Palio, where they celebrated and played games of risk (il Campo was the only place where the games were allowed). The market also used to take place here. Il Campo has witnessed the passage of memorable characters in the history of Siena: Santa Caterina, the mystic saint deeply linked to the image of Siena, and also artists such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini or Jacopo della Quercia.
Piazza del Campo is a unique place in the whole of the world, starting with the very particular conformation of the ground, which turns the square into a big concave shell. The paving is made of red bricks arranged in fishbone style, divided into a sunburst pattern by nine strips of travertine (in memory of the Government of the Nine, who ruled over the city from 1292 to 1355). The white marble of the Fonte Gaia stands out on the paving, it is the masterpiece of 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia, later replaced by a copy. There is also the Palazzo Comunale (town hall), unusually built on the lowest part of the square, and also the tall, slender Torre del Mangia that stands out against the sky (it reaches 102 metres including the lightning conductor). At the base of the Palazzo is the Chapel of the Virgin, or Chapel of the Square, constructed and voted for by the Sienese, after the end of the terrible plague of 1348. And surrounding the chapel are the elegant façades of the Palazzi Signorili, belonging to the wealthiest of families: the Sansedoni, the Piccolomini, and the Saracini.