The National Gallery of Umbria, in Perugia

The National Gallery of Umbria, situated in the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia, contains an extensive collection of artworks, predominantly from the 13th to 15th centuries.

It is the works from the Middle Ages that stand out as highlights of a visit, of which we can give here only give a small numebr of examples.

We note in particular some elements of the marble fountain by Arnolfo di Cambio (1240-1310), an exponent of a moderate Italian Gothic style.

Arnolfo di Cambio was one of the most eminent pupils and colleagues of Nicola Pisano (1215-1278), with whom he collaborated on the pulpit of the Cathedral of Siena, and according to critics, he  studied the drawing of the old masters presumably with Giotto (1267-1337): "In 1277 the Municipality of Perugia, having heard  of the 'subtilissimum magistrum de Florentia' [the very competent Master of Florence], entrusted him with the execution of the fountain in the lower part of the square of Perugia, where there are still some pieces that show an exceptional artistic skill: "The first work entirely by his hand come down to us is the fragmentary Square fountain of Perugia; in the fourteenth century it was tampered with and therefore only three reclining figures have been kept, depicting the 'Thirsties' and two 'Scribes'.

Also worthy of mention is Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1318) and the "Madonna with Child" made for the church of San Domenico in Perugia, of the thirteenth century. This work marked the beginning of the new style of Duccio di Buoninsegna, who separated himself from the Byzantine examples;  he introduced "a new style that will spread quickly in the Sienese painting;  that is the head of the Virgin Mary, instead of being wrapped only in the mantle, is adorned with a luminous veil, which is below the mantle and falls on her chest "(See L. Bellosi-G. Ragionieri, “Duccio di Buoninsegna”, Giunti,  2003, p. 20).

In other rooms, dedicated to Renaissance paintings, two works that stand out are the "Guidalotti Altarpiece" by Beato Angelico (1395-1455), painted for the chapel of St. Nicholas in the church of San Domenico in Perugia, owned by the Guidalotti family: "The tradition of Sienese painting with  its freshness of light, color and perspective, reached from Florence by artists such as Beato Angelico, active in Umbria in the middle of the fifteenth century" (See V. Garibaldi," Perugino ", Giunti, 2004, p. 6).

Also notable is the “Pala della Sapienza Nuova” (1456) by Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497), who demonstrates that he fully deserved his reputation, for the plastic image of the saint  standing in the center of the composition, perfectly balanced for the rhythm, for the monumentality of the figures and the calm tone of color. Perugino created the altarpiece in Perugia for Benedetto Guidalotti Bishop of Recanati: "The painting was originally located in the Chapel of the “Sapienza Vecchia” (...) where it remained until 1885, when it was bought for over 40 000 Italian lira by the City of Perugia and added to the local Art Gallery.

Also worth seeing in the National gallery of Umbria is the Chapel of the Priors (Room 21); here Benedetto Bonfigli  (1410-1496), one of the old masters of the school of Perugia, was commissioned to execute the fresco cycle of paintings dedicated to the stories of the city patron Saints. It is considered the greatest work of Benedetto Bonfigli, the frescoes in the chapel of the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia with scenes from the Life of St. Ludwig and the Stories of St. Ercolano (1454-1461), show clear influences of Beato Angelico and Filippo Lippi (1406-1469).

Beyond the influences, Bonfigli also shows himself as a great painter of the history of Perugia, with the '"Siege of Totila," which he interpreted freely, such as in the depiction of  “Porta Marzia” and of the ancient walls of Perugia. In the midst of the battle under the walls of the city is also depicted the discovery of the intact body of St. Ercolano, Bishop of Perugia during the war between the Goths and the Byzantines.

Inside the same building, as well as the halls dedicated to painting, other halls worthy of mention are those of the “Collegio della Mercanzia e del Collegio del Cambio”, which were the most influential corporations in Perugia in Medieval times.

We conclude by noting that, in the hall of the “Collegio del Cambio”, there are some masterpieces by Perugino (1450.1523), with the exceptional performance of  “Lord between angels and the prophets Isaiah, Moses, David, Jeremiah and the Sibyls ...". According to G. Vasari (1511-1574), this work begun in 1499,  but in reality in 1500.  Perugino depicted an extraordinary cycle of heroes, prophets and sibyls, with an increasing use of mythology and allegory in the representation of civic virtues. The Prophets and Sibyls are attributed to Perugino, while the other frescoes are by  artists of Rome, such as  Raffaello (1483-1520), who was seventeen-year-old.