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Piccolomini Library

Duomo di Siena
Siena, Italy

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Site Description

Model Details

The Piccolomini Library is located in an annex off the nave of Duomo di Siena. The library was commissioned by Pope Pius III (Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini) in honor of his uncle Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silbius Piccolomini) and was created to house Pope Pius II’s manuscript collection. Construction of the addition was commissioned in 1492. The frescoes adorning the walls were painted by Pinturicchio between 1503 and 1508.

These frescos are divided into a set of ten painted niches that outline the life of Pius II from his youth to his arrival in Ancona, where he surrendered his soul. Pinturicchio took care individuating each fresco. For each one, he creates a beautiful landscape backdrop for the characters within each scene. Depicting each figure as an individual, he meticulously paints personalized outfits, incorporating rich colors and delicate patterns. Framing each scene are trompe-l'œil arches that mimic matching tiles and classical reliefs that connect the individual scenes into a comprehensive narrative. Starting on the north-eastern wall, the ten scenes in order are Enea Piccolomini Leaves For the Council of Basel, Enea Piccolomini, as an Ambassador to the Court of James I of Scotland, Frederick III Crowning Enea Silvio Piccolomini with a Laurel Wreath, Homage to Pope Eugenius IV in the Name of Emperor Frederick III, Enea Silvio Piccolomini presents Frederick III to Eleonore of Portugal; Enea Silvio is elevated to Cardinal; The Coronation of Enea Silvio Piccolomini as Pope Pius II, Pope Pius II at the Congress of Mantua, the Canonization of Catherine of Siena by Pope Pius II, and finally, Pope Pius II Arrives in Ancona.

These niches are accented by a luxuriously decorated vaulted ceiling that depicts various mythological scenes, including Diana and Endymion and the Rape of Proserpina. Among these more recognizable scenes are several more allegorical figures. Not an inch of the ceiling was left blank; each scene is framed with golden geometric shapes, adding to the room's brilliance. At the center of the ceiling is the crest of the Piccolomini crest, which is a royal blue cross containing five crescent moons. This symbolism is replicated on the floor, which consists of 19th-century blue tiles with painted crescent moons. The use of bold colors creates an overwhelming sense of grandeur.

Deeply stained shelves along the edges of the room hold manuscripts that date back to the 15th century. At the center of the room is a statue of the Three Graces from the collection of Francesco Todeschini. A Roman copy of a Hellenistic work, this piece accents the rich history of the entire room.


Number of Photographs

Year Photographed


Camera Type

Sony a7iv

Rendered by

Meredith O'Neill '23
Anastasia Garvey '24
Eric Hupe


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Teaching Resources

Mozilla Hubs Scene

Nira Scene

Artist Biography

Selected Bibliography

Pinturicchio, real name Bernardino Betti (b. Perugia, ca. 1454; d. Siena, 1513), was an Italian painter who mainly created frescos based on religious and historical tales. In his early career, he worked in Rome, where he worked alongside other notable artists such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Signorelli. While in Rome, he painted in the Vatican, contributing to the Sistine Chapel, though his collaboration with Perugino makes it difficult to distinguish his exact work. However, he certainly painted the Appartamento Borgia. Here we begin to see his distinguished style; his use of bright colors complemented by beautiful landscapes helps to create his exemplary narrative style. After the death of Alexander VI, Pinturicchio moved back to Umbria, where he continued to work, creating frescos such as the Annunciation in the Spello church of Santa Maria Maggiore. One of his most notable works is the fresco series in the Piccolomini library. Through his narrative of Pope Pius II’s life, Pinturicchio confirms his vivid style with eye-catching clothing, elaborate backgrounds, and intricate borders. Pinturicchio continued to delight people with his work up until his death in 1513.


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