The Pinacoteca comunale [Municipal art gallery] is housed in the sixteenth century Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, built between 1521 and 1543 to celebrate the marriage of the commander Alessandro Vitelli and his wife Angela Rossi of the Counts of San Secondo Parmense. As a result of various transfers of ownership, in the twentieth century the building was bought by the antique dealer Elia Volpi who donated it to the city in 1912, after having restored it and set up the art gallery and civic library.
The understated Renaissance architecture of the building is enriched on the garden-facing façade with an elegant etched graffiti decoration carried out by Cristofano Gherardi from Sansepolcro, known as Doceno, likely from a design by Giorgio Vasari. Part of the decorative apparatus in the internal rooms was done by Gherardi himself, who, along with Nicola Filotesio, also known as Cola dell’Amatrice, was involved in the creation. The fresco decoration, mostly of a profane theme, underlines the cultural interests and the cautious patronage of the Vitelli family.
Divided into twenty six rooms, to which further exhibition spaces are added for temporary exhibitions, the Pinacoteca comunale houses works of art from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, many of them bought after 1860 following the suppression of ecclesiastical institutions and when they became state property of artistic heritage. The rich collection bears witness to the artistic vitality that during the centuries has characterised Città di Castello, at the centre of an important route of communication and cultural exchange between various areas, such as Tuscany, Umbria and Marche. Amongst the foreign artists featured are Spinello Aretino, Antonio Vivarini, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Luca Signorelli, Andrea Della Robbia, Raffaello, Raffaellino del Colle, Pomarancio and Santi di Tito. The Pinacoteca preserves precious furniture originating from churches and public convents, and amongst which we need to particularly mention the group of Gothic stalls, with engraved and decorated inlays, credited to the workshop of the most well-known Florentine carpenter of the early fifteenth century, Manno di Benincasa Mannucci, the cupboard of the vestry signed and dated 1501 by Antonio Bencivenni and the large engraved, golden coffin, that kept the body of the Blessed Margherita.
In the spaces opened in 2006 four important contemporary art donations are housed: the collection of plaster casts by the Tifernate sculptor Elmo Palazzi (1871-1915), a collection of bronzes created by Bruno Bartoccini from Citerna (1910- 2001), the Giorgio Ascani donation (1926-2008), in Nuvolo art, made up of fifteen works of art by the artist and donated to the Città di Castello council by his family in 2012, and the Ruggieri collection, donated in 1986, that contains about twenty pictures by some of the most significant Italian artists from the twentieth century such as De Chirico, Mafai, De Pisis, Dottori e Carrà.
Raffaello giovane e Città di Castello, Città di Castello 1983;
F. F. Mancini, Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, voll. 1-2, Perugia 1987-1988;
R. Ferrazza, Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi, Firenze 1994;
T. Henry, Gli esordi di Raffaello tra Urbino, Città di Castello e Perugia, catalogo della mostra Città di Castello, Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, 24 marzo – 11 giugno 2006, Perugia 2006;
C. Zappia, Il Novecento a Palazzo Vitelli alla Cannoniera, Città di Castello 2009;
T. Henry, Luca Signorelli a Città di Castello: la vita, l’opera e la scuola in alta valle del Tevere, Città di Castello 2013;
A. Delpriori, Prima e dopo Raffaello: Città di Castello e il Rinascimento, Perugia 2019.