Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Siena Duomo Floor: annual uncovering

Giorgio Vasari called the Siena Duomo floor “the most beautiful, big and magnificent that has ever been done.” Normally this floor is covered by carpets to protect it from the footsteps of many visitors, but it is uncovered for a few months each year, allowing us to get a view of the marble intarsia works of art that tell biblical narratives and represent allegories, and took centuries to complete.

The high altar when the floors are uncovered | Photo Alexandra Korey

The high altar when the floors are uncovered | Photo Alexandra Korey

In 2013, this visit was made even more exceptional because you will be able to also see the works from above by attending the small group tours called ‘Porta del cielo’, while in 2018 a special light-show has been added to the experience, involving the pavement and facade of the cathedral.

Siena Duomo floor

Siena Duomo floor

Siena Duomo Floor: a narrative history

There are 56 large scenes represented on the Siena Duomo floor in marble intarsia designed by major Sienese artists including Sassetta, Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, and Domenico Beccafumi, as well as with the intervention of the rare ‘foreign’ artist like Pinturicchio.

Pinturicchio, Allegoria del Monte della Sapienza Siena Duomo floor

Pinturicchio, Allegoria del Monte della Sapienza

The techniques used progress from graffito to commesso marmoreo. Graffito is the use of the scalpel to carve out areas of white marble which were then filled with black stucco.

Front and center is the intarsia representing the she-wolf | Photo Alexandra Korey

Front and center is the intarsia representing the she-wolf | Photo Alexandra Korey

This evolved to incorporating more colours using a technique similar to wood intarsia, which is called commesso marmoreo (sometimes also pietre dure, but these are softer stones, thus not ‘dure’).

1Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Sibilla Libica. Siena, pavimento del Duomo Siena Duomo floor

Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Libyan sybil

The nave and side aisles of the Cathedral floor are decorated with stories from antiquity, such as the image of Romulus and Remus, symbol of Siena. There are ten sybills represented, and various philosophers.

4 Matteo di Giovanni, Strage degli innocenti, particolare. Siena, Siena Duomo floor

Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents

The transept and choir narrate Old Testament stories, all except the Slaughter of the Innocents by Matteo di Giovanni which is based on the recount of the Evangelist St. Matthew.

2 Domenico Beccafumi. Storie di Mosae sul Sinai, particolare Siena Duomo floor

Domenico Beccafumi, stories of Moses on Mount Sinai

By the time you get under the cupola, time has gone by and you have works by the Mannerist artist Domenico Beccafumi, with a perfection of the marble intarsia technique to use gradations of material for fine shadows and intricate representation.

Detail of the Beccafumi panel

Detail of the Beccafumi panel  | Photo Alexandra Korey

Stylistically you can see how very different these are from the earlier, more static ones. In particular, Beccafumi is brilliant in the way he creates shadow in a way that looks like a two-tone woodblock print.

Siena Duomo floor

Siena Duomo Floor from above

Light show on Siena Cathedral facade

On June 27, for the seventh edition of Lux in nocte, a light installation called In Lucem Veniet turned the cathedral and its floors into an additionally stunning show. Light, words, music and images assembled as never before on the facade. At the end of the projection, the doors of the Cathedral will open for a special night-time visit. This was a special, free visit that will take place only once, at 21:30 on June 27, 2018.

Here is a photo from the exterior light show on June 27 - unfortunately it rained!

Here is a photo from the exterior light show on June 27 – unfortunately it rained! | Photo Alexandra Korey

Visitor Information

Siena Duomo floor uncovering
2018 dates: June 27 to July 31, 2018, and then again from August 18 to October 28, 2018.
Open daily 10:30 – 19:30, sundays and holidays 9:30 – 18:00

A post shared by Alexandra Korey (@arttrav) on

 

PHOTO CREDITS: press photos reproduced by permission from Opera – Civita Group. If you wish to reproduce these images, please write to ufficiostampa@operalaboratori.com

New night photos credit Alexandra Korey as indicated

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Jane

    Greetings Alexandra- Hope you dont mind me asking about a post from a few years ago regarding tennis in Florence. My husband and I enjoy playing doubles and we will be staying in Florence for the month of September 2019. We are in the process of making accomodations etc for our stay. We found your list of count availability very helpful, however, since it is a few years old we were wondering if you are still involved and would consider answering a few questions…. Please feel free to contact me if you have time. Thanks, jane

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Jane, the tennis article is still up to date! Feel free to email me at info@arttrav.com with any questions