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The Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece

Edited by Machtelt Israëls

ISBN 9780674035232

Publication date: 12/15/2009

Sassetta, the subtle genius from Siena, revolutionized Italian painting with an altarpiece for the small Tuscan town of Borgo San Sepolcro in 1437–1444. Originally standing some six yards high, double-sided, with a splendid gilt frame over the main altar of the local Franciscan church, it was the Rolls Royce of early Renaissance painting. But its myriad figures and scenes tempted the collectors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and today its disassembled panels can be found in twelve museums throughout Europe and the United States.

To produce this landmark volume, experts in art and general history, painting technique and conservation, woodworking, architecture, and liturgy have joined forces across the boundaries of eight different nations. A model of collaboration, it opens new windows onto the creative process of the artist as he confronted a late-medieval church at a crossroad of cultures, the miracle-working body of a holy man, and a community of Franciscan friars breathing the exhilarating air of reform. To confront such challenges, Sassetta raised the most spiritual school of early Italian art, the Sienese, to a higher level of understanding, grace, and splendor.


  • Sassetta was the leading painter in Siena in the early fifteenth century and the altarpiece he made for the Franciscan church in the town of Borgo San Sepolcro was one of the biggest altarpieces of the Renaissance, about twenty feet tall and fifteen feet wide. For the last hundred years, this painting has inspired research on the character of Sienese art, and it is now the subject of a beautiful new study in two volumes, Sassetta: The Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece. Everything about the book is impressive, from the quality of its printing to the number of people involved in its writing. Led by the brilliant scholar Machtelt Israëls, more than forty experts contributed to the book; and at 636 pages and 435 color illustrations, it is one of the most comprehensive monographs ever written on a single work of Renaissance painting.

    —Andrew Butterfield, New York Review of Books


  • Machtelt Israëls is Researcher in the History of Renaissance and Early Modern Art at the University of Amsterdam.

Book Details

  • 624 pages
  • Villa I Tatti