Frescoes in the Collegiata, San Gimignano (c. 1340)
by Lippo MEMMI

The Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, directly adjacent to the Palazzo Comunale, is San Gimignano's main church. The fresco decoration of the nave of the Romanesque-Gothic church began in the 1340s and continued through three phases in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The decoration encompassed New Testament scenes in the north aisle by Lippo Memmi (c. 1340), Old Testament scenes in the south aisle by Bartolo di Fredi (1367), and a depiction of the Last Judgment on the east wall and in the first bay of the nave. by Taddeo di Bartolo (c. 1413).

Following Vasari, the frescoes in the north aisle were long attributed to a painter by the name of Barna da Siena. Vasari based this attribution on Ghiberti, who in the Commentarii (written about 1447) adopted a tradition that was obviously incorrect. Now there is a broad agreement among scholars that Vasari's information on the figure and life of Barna was freely invented. It is generally assumed today that the painter of the frescoes was from the immediate circle of Simone Martini, most probably Lippo Memmi.

Twenty-six scenes from the life of Christ run along the north wall of the side aisle in three registers across six bays. The three-register schema is interrupted by a large Crucifixion, which takes up the space of four fields in the fifth bay. Moreover, two sections in the middle register in the first bay is occupied by Christ's Entry into Jerusalem. The narrative sequence of the scenes is not consistently maintained.

Works by Duccio, Giotto, and Pietro Lorenzetti offer precedents for the motifs found in the frescoes. Stylistically, they point to Simone Martini. The originality of the frescoes, despite the borrowings from contemporary paintings, is seen above all in the popular, expressive narrative tone, which is evident in the gestures and even more in the facial expressions of the figures.

Preview Picture Data Info
Scenes from the Life of Christ (first bay)
c. 1340
Fresco, height 800 cm
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Annunciation to the Virgin
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Betrayal of Judas (detail)
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Scenes from the Life of Christ (second bay)
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Mocking of Christ
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Crucifixion
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano


Crucifixion (detail)
c. 1340
Fresco
Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano



Paintings by Lippo MEMMI
Frescoes in the Collegiata, San Gimignano (c. 1340)
Various paintings



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