Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia

In Perugia, the capital of Umbria, to visit the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in the Palazzo dei Priori. The museum holds one of Italy’s most important art collections, featuring works from the thirteenth century onwards, including the world’s largest collection of paintings by Pietro Perugino.

Palazzo dei Priori, Perugia

Whilst the focus of the collection is Umbrian artists, the earliest works are from Siena. All are now magnificently displayed in the forty halls of the museum which only reopened this year after several years of renovation.

The collection begins in the mid-thirteenth century and shows the leading roles played by Tuscan masters such as Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Arnolfo di Cambio and Duccio di Boninsegna, painters from Umbria, such as the Master of Saint Francis and Ottaviano Nelli, and of the Marches, including Gentile da Fabriano and Lorenzo Salimbeni.

It then enters the early Renaissance, with works by artists such as Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli. The museum also holds the world’s largest collection of works by Pietro Perugino, displayed in two sections; the first the youthful output of the artist, with the second displaying his mature and later periods.

Hall 1 is dominated by a magnificent crucifix by the Master of Saint Francis from 1272. Originally made for the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia, it is richly coloured and embellished with gold. It provides an impressive start to the museum’s new display.

Master of Saint Francis ‘Crucifix’ (1272)

Duccio di Buoninsegna ‘Madonna and Child with Six Angels’ (1304 – 10)

Ottaviano Nelli ‘Pietralunga Polyptych’ (1403)

Taddeo di Bartolo ‘Pentecost’ (1403)

Fra Angelico ‘Guidalotti Polyptych’ (1438)

Domenico di Bartolo Ghezzi ‘Santa Giuliana Polyptych’ (1438)

Bicci di Lorenzo ‘Triptych with opening doors’ (Sant’Agnese Tabernacle) (c.1420 – 40)

Perugino ‘Gonfalon of Justice’ (c.1496)

Perugino ‘Madonna of Consolation’ (1496 – 99)

Perugino ‘Ranieri Annunciation’ (c.1490 – 1500)

Fontana Maggiore

Apart from the Palazzo dei Priori, the most important monument in Perugia is the Fontana Maggiore. The fountain was designed by Frà Bevignate da Cingoli and built between 1275 and 1278 to celebrate the arrival of water in the city by means of a new aqueduct. It was then decorated with carvings by Nicola Pisano and his son, Giovanni.

Fontana Maggiore

The lower basin is made up of 25 sections, each divided into two tiles that describe the twelve months of the year, each of which is related to a zodiac symbol. Each month is connected to scenes of daily life and the farming work that characterize it:

  • The month of January (a gentleman and his wife at the hearth – Aquarius)
  • The month of February (two fishermen – Pisces)
  • The month of March (the ‘spinario’ and the pruning of the vineyard – Aries)
  • The month of April (two allegories of spring – Taurus)  
  • The month of May (two Knights on Falconry – Gemini)
  • The month of June (the harvest and flailing – Cancer)
  • The month of July (the threshing and the division of wheat – Lion)
  • The month of August (the fig harvest – Virgo)
  • The month of September (the crushing of must – Libra and the grape harvest
  • The month of October (the filling up of casks – Scorpion and the construction of casks)
  • The month of November (the ploughing – Sagittarius and the sowing)
  • The month of December (the slaughter of the pork – Capricorn)

The harvest and the month of June

The preparation of wine in October

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