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The ''beautiful chapel'' of Spello

Discovering Umbria

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In spite of the impression given by its proudly medieval aspect, Spello has also been influenced by the Renaissance period. In 1500 it treated itself to the luxury of accommodating one of the protagonists of the movement that was intended to set new standards for the graphic art in Italy. Bernardino di Betto, better known as ''Pinturicchio'', was born in 1454 at Perugia, and he had practically next-door an excellent master, Pietro Vannucci, called Perugino, under whose direction flourished also the best representative of renaissance painting, Raphael. The master took Pinturicchio to Rome, where he wanted him to help to decorate the Sistine Chapel, and in the frescoes "The Baptism of Christ'' and ''Stories from Moses'' in particular he relied very much on the help of his pupil. This experience was very important for Pinturicchio and in the meantime he also learned to know and to admire the works of Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. The presence of the Tuscan masters stirred him into action and enriched him so that he soon attracted the attention of the sought-after Roman circle, where he could get many work orders, amongst which was also the decoration of the ''flat of the Borgia pope Alexander the Sixth'' in the Vatican. Right after that arrived the call that led him to Spello. Around 1500 Troilo Baglioni, the prior of Santa Maria Maggiore, commissioned him to decorate with frescoes the  "beautiful chapel'', which should become famous under the name ''Cappella Bella'' and is situated at the left wall of the nave of Santa Maria Maggiore. In the Cappella Baglioni, as it is also called, one can admire figures full of gracefulness, highly imaginative landscape backgrounds, a precisely working sense for space and a perspective order, that are equal in every way to those in his master's works.

On the left chapel wall is the fresco ''The Annunciation'', where the figures seem to move in an idealized architectonical space. On the right wall one can see the self-portrait of the artist in a frame.

On the middle wall is to be seen one of the most mature works of the artist, the "Nativity'', where Pinturicchio has inserted late Gothic motifs in the Renaissance structure. The scene is carried out in a precise and harmonically perspective depiction, while on the background one can just see war scenes.

The right wall is occupied by ''Christ among the scribes'', a fresco that takes up again the traditional Renaissance motifs and portrays several figures crowding the foreground scene and a Raphaelesque, temple-like building in the background. The first figure at the left margin of the painting is the customer of the work, Troilo Baglioni, dressed in black and portrayed with a gaunt face.

In order to complete the tour in the Cappella Bella we want to mention the four Sibylls painted in the spandrels of the cross vault.

In Spello's Cappella Baglioni Pinturicchio shows all his skills and reveals his personal, lively and imaginative view of the Renaissance.
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