Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
In the itinerary that unfolds around the museum complex of the Cathedral, you will be led into the right aisle of the Duomo Nuovo, to the headquarters of the Museo dell'Opera, one of the oldest private museums established in Italy. It was founded in 1869 with the consent of the Ministry of Public Education, during a very fertile period of achievements. Its headquarters is prestigious. The collection is indeed held in the rooms derived from closing the first three spans of the right aisle of the so-called "Duomo Nuovo", whose construction began in 1339 and was interrupted after the Black Death of 1348.
Fervent activity immediately targeted creating a museum of a far-reaching character to exhibit the works of art from the Cathedral, and to collect anthem books, furnishings and works of great value removed from their original locations over the course of centuries.
The ground floor rooms exhibit the important collection of fourteenth-century Sienese sculpture from the facade of the cathedral, whose first project was signed by Giovanni Pisano. The extraordinary marble statues portraying Sibyls, Prophets and Philosophers of antiquity that Pisano sculpted while master-builder (1285-1297), vibrate with the artist's new manner of sculpting, and are animated by a dynamism and Gothic verism pervaded by spiritual instances. Behind the large railing that divides the room are two beautiful She-wolves that originally sat on the columns of the cathedral's parvis. The one on the left is attributed to the school of Giovanni Pisano, while the one on the right, which is much more recent, is referred to Sienese artisans active in the second half of the XVII century.
This room also exhibits two important works by fifteenth-century artists. A bas-relief from the Chapel of San Sebastiano in the Duomo, portraying the Madonna and Child Enthroned and Cardinal Casini by Jacopo della Quercia (1437-1438), and the famous tondo by Donatello of the Madonna and Child, known as the "Madonna of Pardon" (1458 ca.), executed for the old door "del Perdono" on the right side of the cathedral.
On the far end of the room we find the grandiose Stained-glass Window that Duccio di Buoninsegna executed for the oculus of the apse of the Cathedral of Siena, where it was placed in June 2004.
As several archive documents testify, the Stained-glass Window was executed between 1287 and 1288, and represents a unicum among the glass manufactures produced in the Middle Ages. The technique Duccio utilised in creating the work is extraordinary; the window is made up of fourteen large panels made of the highest quality glass, selected in numerous colour ranges that go from sapphire blue to ruby red, from golden yellow to emerald green. The scenes of the upper fascia finds their literary source in the apocryphal text by Pseudo-Melito, and present three stories of the Virgin: Burial, Assumption and Coronation. The Evangelists are instead depicted seated in the triangles, while the Four Patron Saints of Siena – Bartholomew, Ansanus, Crescentius and Savinus – appear in the lateral fascia.
In an air-conditioned room on the Museum's first floor we find the magnificent Maestà altarpiece by Duccio di Buoninsegna, the true magnum opus of the entire collection, and an absolute masterpiece of early fourteenth-century Italian painting. This painting that the Maestro executed between 1308 and 1311 was visible on both sides, and proves to be one of the largest artistic undertakings of all times, considering that more than forty figures are depicted on the front surface and almost eighty are presented in the stories on the back, the predellas and the crowns. The front part depicts the Madonna Enthroned, Saints and Angels, while the rear surface is divided into twenty-six scenes depicting the Passion of Christ. This same room also hosts the painting that Pietro Lorenzetti executed for the old altar of San Savino in the cathedral, depicting the Nativity of the Virgin (1342).
The little room adjoining the Maestà Room houses a rich and prestigious collection of wooden sculpture and illuminated codices. Quite valuable are the Statues of the Mourners that Domenico di Niccolò dei Cori sculpted between 1414 and 1415, and the series with the Madonna and Saints that Jacopo della Quercia executed between 1415 and 1420. Glass showcases contain several of the numerous ancient codices from the Cathedral, illuminated by artists of the calibre of Lippo Vanni, Sano di Pietro and Benvenuto di Giovanni.
Continuing along our itinerary we reach the Treasury, which exhibits more than two-hundred furnishings tied to the holy liturgy. Quite rich and important is the section devoted to chalices, while an absolutely beautiful section is devoted to the enamelware executed by Goro di ser Neroccio in the XV century, and the reliquaries. The Reliquary of Saint Galganus merits particular attention, one of the most important works of Sienese goldsmithing, dated around the end of the XIII century, as well as the Reliquary of the Arm of Saint John the Baptist, which Pius II commissioned Francesco d'Antonio to create in 1466, after receiving the donation of the Saint's relic from Thomas Palaiologos. Of rare beauty, the liturgical service from the chapel of the Madonna del Voto in the Cathedral of Siena, is made of rock crystal and mounted on silver, embellished by translucent enamels. Created in the mid XVII century by order of pope Alessandro VII Chigi, these furnishings constitute a masterpiece of the goldsmithing art for the extreme refinement of the intaglios and decorations, as well as for the perfection of the technique employed in their making. Also tied to Chigi is the splendid Golden Rose, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which Alessandro VII donated to the Cathedral of Siena in 1658.
The three rooms on the top floor mainly house the rich collection of paintings on wood and canvas with sacred subjects, which come from the Cathedral and can be dated between the XIII and XIX centuries.
The first room mainly houses paintings on wood with gold grounds. Here we find the Madonna of the Large Eyes, one of the most ancient paintings of the Sienese school, authored by the Master of Tressa in the second quarter of the XIII century. Before the Battle of Monteaperti (September 4, 1260), the people of Siena assembled here to raise a prayer entrusting the city to the Virgin. Also worthy of attention is the large polyptych by Gregorio di Cecco, portraying the Madonna of Humility (1423), which comes from the Altar of the Visitation in the Cathedral, and the two large paintings of the Sermons of Saint Bernardino executed by Sano di Pietro in the 1440s. The room is further embellished by two sculptures in painted wood of an extraordinary intensity: the Crucifix (1280) by Giovanni Pisano, considered among the artist's most touching and dramatic achievements, and the Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1421) by Alberto di Betto. The second room, known as the Alfieri Room, hosts works that are heterogeneous for period and style. The left wall presents the beautiful altarpieces by Matteo di Giovanni: the Madonna Enthroned with Saint Anthony and Saint Bernardino (1460) comes from the Baptistery, while the Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints and Angels (1480) comes from the Celsi Altar in the Cathedral. The most original works in the room include the panel painting of Saint Paul Enthroned by Domenico Beccafumi and dated 1516, accompanied by the elegant pair of works in polychrome terracotta portraying the Annunciating Angel and the Virgin Annunciate that he executed around 1545. Quite noteworthy are the two paintings on canvas by Luca Giordano, Christ before Pontius Pilate and Deposition from the Cross, which were received in exchange for the famous Annunciation by Simone Martini, originally on the altar of Saint Ansanus in the Cathedral of Siena, and today housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence. In the middle of the room is a vexillum, a processional banner that the Lay Society of the Young Saint John and Saint Januarius commissioned from Rutilio Manetti and Francesco Rustici between 1616 and 1622. The paintings respectively portray the Sermon of the Baptist and the Baptism of Christ.
The production of the XIX century, hosted in the Room of Tapestries, completely lined with wall hangings dated XVII century, is illustrated by large drawings for the cusp mosaics in the facade of the Cathedral, executed in 1878 by painters Luigi Mussini and Alessandro Franchi. The showcases along the walls contain an important collection of textiles from the cathedral, while the one in the middle of the room holds the precious Chasuble from Lucca, made of jasper between the XI and XIII centuries.
As of 1996, the Church of San Niccolò in Sasso was annexed to the Museo dell'Opera. This church is one of the most characteristic examples of the Sienese Baroque style, and functioned as the place of worship for the nuns of the neighbouring Convent of Monna Agnese. On the church's altars are paintings from the first half of the XVII century by artists such as Francesco Vanni, Rutilio Manetti, Astolfo Petrazzi, Raffaello Vanni and Niccolò Tornioli. The vault is decorated with a fresco cycle depicting Stories of the Virgin, dated 1642, by Giovan Battista Giustamminani, known as ‘Francesino'.