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



Blessed Agostino Novello Altarpiece, 1324, tempera on wood, 198 x 257 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

Travel guide for Tuscany

Simone Martini | The Blessed Agostino Novello Altarpiece


After having spent several years in Assisi, Pisa and Orvieto, only occasionally returning to Siena for very brief periods during which he worked in the Palazzo Pubblico (on one occasion to retouch the Maestà, on another to paint some works that are no longer extant), Simone Martini actually returned to Siena on a stable basis. This appears to have been a rather calm period of his life and it was at this time that he married Giovanna Memmi: perhaps feeling tired after his travels, working for so many different patrons in different places, Simone decided to settle in his home town. [1] It was sometime around 1325 and Simone was a well established painter, at the height of his artistic maturity. His experiences working for the House of Anjou and the Franciscans, in international environments where political interests frequently took the place of religious spirit and where art became an effective means of visualizing and promoting temporal power, had made Simone much more a man of the world: he had set off from Siena as a talented but simple Sienese painter, and he returned as a famous artist, selfconfident and experienced. Back in Siena, Simone worked for the Government of the Nine adding more and more splendid works to the Palazzo Pubblico, year after year; most of these paintings have not survived and we only know about them from the payments recorded in the Biccherna ledgers. It was during this second Sienese period that Simone painted some of his most famous paintings, such as the Blessed Agostino Novello Altarpiece, the celebrated fresco of Guidoriccio da Fogliano and the Annunciation now in the Uffizi, the only one that is actually signed and dated.[1]

The story of the Blessed Agostino Novello is an example of that form of popular religious spirit that grew up in the towns of Tuscany in the late 13th century and the early 14th. The Church's official saints were considered too remote by the people and spiritually so different from the reality of the times that they could not entirely satisfy the religious fervour that developed in those years. The people felt that they needed more tangible examples of holiness, more closely connected to daily reality, rather like St Francis of Assisi had been. As a result, some of the better known citizens, whose charitable and religious deeds were known to all (and in may cases miracles were attributed to them), were canonized as saints or blessed.

Agostino Novello was one of these figures. After a brilliant career both as a layman and as a cleric (he studied law at the University of Bologna and became personal councillor to King Manfred, the son of Ludwig II; when he joined the Augustinian Order he became Prior General), Agostino Novello then renounced community life and retired to the hermitage of San Leonardo al Lago, near Siena.

After his death in 1309, the worship of this saintly man spread so fast that the monks of his Order tried to have him nominated patron saint of the city: through the veneration of a member of their Order, the Augustinians were sure to gain prestige and power. But Agostino was not made patron saint of Siena, despite the fact that he must indeed have been the object of great veneration to judge by the impressive funerary monument that was built for him.

Now in the Pinacoteca in Siena, the painting hung originally in the church of Sant'Agostino, probably above the wooden sarcophagus in which the Blessed Agostino was buried; together with the altar consecrated to him, these two elements formed a burial monument. The dating of this altarpiece can only be approximated. We can only suppose that it was already finished and in place on the occasion of the celebrations in honour of the Blessed Agostino held in 1324 and for which the Commune of Siena allotted a huge sum of money.

The iconography, at least for modern observers like us, is clear but not that simple to understand. The central area, framed by a multifoiled ogival arch, encloses the figure of Agostino, who is given a saint's halo even though he had not been canonized. The wooded landscape, the old hermits in the medallions and the scene of the conversation with the angel (an episode that does not appear in any of the biographies) are all references to the hermit's life he led at San Leonardo al Lago. On the other hand, the face of Agostino, portrayed still as a young man, the red book he carries (perhaps the Constitutiones of the Order, which he had drawn up himself), as well as the fact that the miracles are all taking place in a very realistically described Siena, all suggest Agostino's political commitments and the pastoral duties he performed in the city.

The miraculous powers of the Blessed Agostino are fully displayed in the scenes depicted at the sides of the central area; they are framed by trefoiled round arches and illustrate four miracles. The idea of Agostino's holiness, stressed by the sudden appearances of winged angels, was intended to capture the mediaeval public's religious sensitivity: the victims of the terrible accidents are for the most part children.


Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists | Simone Martini (1285-1344) and Lippo Memmi (d. 1357)

Art in Tuscany | The Sienese School of painting

[1] The Italian painter Simone Martini (active 1315-1344) created a perfect synthesis of the ideals of the Gothic age: courtly elegance, chivalric pageantry, civic pride, poetic fantasy, and vivid description. Simone Martini was praised by Petrarch in his Sonnets. He was seen as an sophisticated artist and one of the greatest Sienese followers of Duccio. An exponent of Gothic art, Simone Martini did much to spread the influence of Sienese painting. Duccio di Buoninsegna influenced his use of harmonious, pure colour, but his graceful, decorative lines were inspired by French Gothic art, as seen in his Maestà fresco (1315), which depicts the Madonna as a Gothic queen holding court beneath a Gothic canopy. His equestrian portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano (1328) was an important precedent for Renaissance equestrian portraits.


Travel guide for tuscany | Art, history, hidden secrets and holiday houses in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia


Podere Santa Pia, an ancient country estate, faces the gentle hills of Maremma Region. Although Santa Pia is off the beaten track it is the ideal choice for those seeking a peaceful, uncontaminated environment.
Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

Florence, Duomo

Tombolo di Feniglia
Crete Senesi, Asciano
L'eremo di Montesiepi (the Hermitage of Montesiepi)

Sunsets in Tuscany

Podere Santa Pia and the breathtaking view on the Tyrrhenian coast