On 23 August 1504, the artist Bernardino di Betto – also known as Pintoricchio – was paid 700 ducats for eight scenes painted from the life of St. John the Baptist for the saint’s chapel in the Cathedral of Siena.
These were commissioned by Alberto Aringhieri, the rector of the Cathedral Works and a Knight of Rhodes. The decoration of the chapel was executed from 1504-1505 and, of the original eight paintings, three were completely repainted in later centuries.
The remaining five frescoes in Pintoricchio’s hand depict The Birth of the Baptist, St John the Baptist in the Desert and The Sermon on the Mount, together with the two portraits of the donor, placed on either side of the chapel entrance. These are said to represent Aringhieri as an idealised young cavalier and as an elderly knight and have drawn the most attention for their highly detailed, minute execution, characteristic of Pintoricchio’s late style. The nineteenth-century journalist and art writer Evelyn March Phillipps (d. 1915) wrote the first English-language biography on Pintorricchio, and aptly described these portraits as being painted ‘with the dainty care of a miniature’.
Phillipps, Evelyn March. Pintoricchio. London: George Bell & Sons, 1904.
Scarpellini, Pietro and Maria Rita Silvestrelli. Pintoricchio. Milan: Federico Motta, 2004.
Scarpellini, Pietro. “Pinturicchio, Bernardino.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. http://0-www.oxfordartonline.com.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/subscriber/article/grove/art/T067759.
Portrait of a Young Cavaliere
Portrait of the Donor
The Birth of the Baptist
St. John in the Wilderness
The Sermon on the Mount
All fresco, Cappella di San Giovanni Battista, Duomo, Siena.