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Raffaello in Città di Castello

Pinacoteca comunale

The sixth room contains the only piece remaining in the town by one of the most renowned painters of the Renaissance: Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520). This is the Gonfalone della Santissima Trinità, created between 1500 and 1501. On one side it depicts the Creazione di Eva, and on the other side the Trinità con i santi Rocco e Sebastiano, and was painted for the Confraternita della Santissima Trinità church on via della Fraternita.

Raffaello was born in Urbino and spent his childhood in his father’s workshop, the painter Giovanni Santi, who, according to the first memoirs, decided as soon as his son turned sixteen, to send him to learn the art of painting with Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino, at that time working between Florence and Perugia. Raffaello left four works of art to Città di Castello, three of which unfortunately have migrated.

Vasari recounts that Raffaello arrived in Città di Castello with “some friends”. Here, in 1500, at just seventeen years of age, he signs his first contract as ‘magister’, that is registered to the corporation of painters. The contract is for the Pala di San Nicola da Tolentino, designed for the Baronci chapel in the church of Sant’Agostino. The altarpiece was commissioned to Raffaello and to Evangelista da Pian di Meleto, a collaborator of Giovanni Santi, by the merchant Andrea Baronci and was already finished by the 13th September of the following year. In 1789 the fierce earthquake that shook the city, irreparably damaged both the work of Raffaello and the church of Sant’Agostino itself. And so it was that he decided to sell the fragments of the Baronci altar piece to Pope IV in order to contribute to the restoration of the church. The fragments of the work traced so far are kept in the museums of Brescia (Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo), Naples (Museo nazionale di Capodimonte) and Paris (Louvre Museum). In Città di Castello a copy made by the Roman painter Ermenegildo Costantini is kept that, together with some preliminary drawings by Raffaello, reveal an essential testimony for the reconstruction of the original structure of the Baronci altarpiece.

The Crocifissione Gavari or Mond was commissioned by the wool merchant and banker Domenico Gavari for his funeral chapel, dedicated to Saint Girolamo, in the church of San Domenico. The altarpiece was positioned inside a sandstone frame which remains on site and on which the name of the commissioner is legible, as is the date MDIII (1503). The panel was accompanied by an altar step made up, in all likely hood, of four sections, of which two have been identified. The work of Raffaello remained on site until 1818, when it was sold by the friars and it can now be found in the National Gallery in London. The Pinacoteca comunale conserves the only copy known to date, realized at the moment of sale.

More complex are the events relating to the last work of art created by Raffaello in the city: the Sposalizio della Vergine. Painted in 1504 for the chapel of San Giuseppe, patronage of the Albizzini family, in the Church of San Francesco, it was handed over by them in 1798 to the Napoleonic general of Brescia, Lechi, and can now be found in the Brera collections in Milan.