Liverpool Walker Art Gallery artwork of the Month – March 2008
‘St Bernardino Preaching’, by Francesco di Giorgio Martini
About the artwork
Francesco di Giorgio was the key artistic personality in Siena in Italy during the second half of the fifteenth century. He began his career as a painter, fresco artist and manuscript illuminator, but later branched out into architecture and finally made his name as a sculptor and brilliant engineer at the court of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. He also appears to have been the first in Siena to execute drawings as works of art in their own right, signalling his new status as an inventive artist. His successful career as an engineer and as an artist versatile in many forms led to his serving in government positions and as the city’s representative abroad.
St Bernardino or Bernardino degli Albizzeschi (1380-1444) to give him his full birth-name, was a Franciscan preacher. He was the key religious personality of fifteenth-century Siena. Sienese by birth, his preaching dominated the first half of the century and continued to have an impact after his death on the quarrelsome Sienese politics in the second half. Siena’s devotion to Bernardino was so great that he was made a saint in 1450, only six years after his death. Each of his series of outdoor sermons delivered in Italian in Siena could last up to four hours. At their peak his sermons were said to have reached crowds of 30,000 people. His audiences were carefully divided according to sex by a ‘modesty’ curtain to ensure there were no other distractions. He campaigned on moral issues, against gambling and praised affectionate marriage. Above all, in 1425 and 1427, he campaigned to bring peace to Siena’s faction-ridden elite and unite them in the name of Jesus.
Free public talk in the gallery at 1pm on Thursday 27 March 2008.