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Discovering Perugino’s places in Umbria

Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci (Città della Pieve, Umbria c.1448 – Fontignano, now Umbria 1523) is the most famous exponent of the Umbrian school and one of the main painters of Italian Renaissance.

An enlighten man, whose work has become so refined to make his first master, Raffaello’s father, call him ‘Divine’.  Vasari recognized his international fame: “he was so liked by his contemporaries that people came from France, Spain and other provinces” to learn the secrets of his precious art.

One of his most memorable decorative works made outside Umbria is the participation to the decoration of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Rome. Here, between 1481 and 1483, he worked on the altarpiece (later destroyed to make room for the Last Judgment of Michelangelo) and some frescoes with the Storie di Mosè e di Cristo (Stories of Moses and Christ). One of these is the famous Consegna delle chiavi (Delivery of the Keys), his artistic peak.

The itinerary starts from Città della Pieve, where Pietro was born. Here you can visit the Oratorio di Santa Maria dei Bianchi and admire the Adorazione dei Magi (Adoration of the Magi): in front of the big barn the Holy Family is surrounded by a cortege of knights; in the background the idealized view of Valdichiana from Città della Pieve.
In the Cathedral are preserved other works of the artist such as the Battesimo di Cristo (Baptism of Christ), the Madonna con il Bambino (Madonna and Child) and the portraits of Saints Gervasius, Peter, Paul and Protasius; while in the Museo Civico Diocesano ex chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi is kept the Deposizione dalla Croce (the Descent from the Cross).

After Città della Pieve, go to Panicale, from which you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lake Trasimeno. In the chiesa di San Sebastiano is preserved the fresco, made in 1505, dedicated to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian that adorns the end of the oratory. The majestic architectural scenery enhances the rhythmical gestural expressiveness, obtaining a classic balance.

Then go to Fontignano, where in the Chiesa dell’Annunziata is exhibited the last work of the artist: the Madonna col bambino in trono (Madonna with Child Enthroned). According to the tradition, Perugino was painting this piece when he was hit by the plague that killed him. In the same church is preserved his marble tomb.

Before Perugia, stop at Corciano: in the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is displayed an altarpiece of the Vergine Assunta in cielo alla presenza dei dodici apostoli (Assumption of Mary into Heaven in front of the twelve apostles).

Pietro lived in Perugia for a long time, he had a studio and he was an important magistrate; from this town derives the name he is commonly known with. In Perugia there many examples of his art: in the  Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria some of these works are displayed, for instance the Adorazione dei Magi (Adoration of the Magi), the Gonfalone con la Pietà (Pietà Standard) and the Madonna della Consolazione. In the Collegio del Cambio Perugino painted in fresco the Sala delle Udienze and there is also his self-portrait. In the 15th-century Cappella di San Severo you can admire the fresco Trinità e Santi (Holy Trinity with Saints), started by Raffaello in 1505 and finished by Perugino in 1521.

Then go to Deruta. In the Pinacoteca comunale is preserved the fresco removed from the Chiesa di San Francesco. It was commissioned by the people of Deruta to avert the plague of 1476. The fresco portrays God the Father with two Saints, Saint Roch and Saint Romanus and shows the town at its base. Another work is the fresco of Saint Sebastian and fragments of Saint Roch and Saint Peter in the Chiesa di Maria Assunta di Cerqueto.

Then stop to the Museo della città in Bettona to admire the Sant’Antonio di Padova e devoto (Saint Anthony of Padua and devotee), datable 1512-13 and coming from the former convento di San Crispolto. Here you can also admire the Madonna della Misericordia con i santi Stefano e Girolamo e committenti (Virgin of Mercy with the Saint Stephen and Jerome and clients), coming from the Chiesa di Santa Caterina: the ample cloak of the Virgin symbolizes protection and receives Saint Stephen with the stones on his shoulders, Saint Jerome with his white bread and hair and the clients.

The artist also worked in the Umbrian valley: in the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi in 1486, on the outer wall of the backside of the Proziuncola, he painted a large Crucifixion, but after the edification of the Basilica just a fragment of the work is still visible.

In Spello and Trevi are preserved some of the last works, datable 1521: the Pietà and the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints, painted at the side of the altar in the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore di Spello, and the Adorazione dei Magi), the Santi Pietro e Paolo (Adoration of the Magi with Saints Peter and Paul) and the Annunciazione (Annunciation) in the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Lacrime di Trevi.

The fresco of the Nativity in the Complesso museale di San Francesco in Montefalco dates back to 1503 and repeats the same subject and the same composition of the paint he made three years before in the Collegio del Cambio. As he always did, Perugino adapted cartoons previously used, making small changes.

The itinerary ends in Foligno, in the Oratorio della Nunziatella, where is preserved the Battesimo di Cristo con l’Eterno in gloria tra due Angeli (Baptism of Christ with God in Glory with two Angels). The fresco occupies the niche in the bottom wall of the Renaissance oratory, built around a miraculous picture in 1494.