Berardino di Betto called
"The Pintoricchio"
The Pintoricchio

Menghini Gioielli

The biography, works and historical context of Bernardino di Betto, called
"The Pintoricchio"

Bernardino di Betto, called Pintoricchio, was born between 1456 and 1460, from a modest family of artisan. Since his childhood he starts to practise with brushes and colours in the workshop that the miniaturist Giapeco Caporali opens near his home.

These are the years in which Perugia is going through a great artistic fervour thanks to the presence of great artists of the Italian Renaissance including Gentile di Fabriano, Beato Angelico, Giovanni Boccati, Domenico Veneziano, Bartolomeo Caporali, Sante di Apollonio and “the divine painter” the Perugino. Also the youngest Bernardino takes part in this wonderful Umbrian artistic season: in these years we see him committed in the famous tables with the stories of St. Bernardino of 1473 and on scaffolds of the Sistine Chapel where he paints at the side of Perugino.

Only in 1481, at the age of twenty, he enrols himself in the “Art of Painters” of Porta St. Angelo; ill with contempt he is called Pintoricchio, as small and just look and, above all, inferior than the divine painter, the great Perugino.

Thanks to his work in Rome, Pintoricchio comes into contact with new buyers and between 1482 and 1485 he paints the Chapel Bufalini all’Aracoeli. His stay in Rome is spaced out from continuing fall in Umbria for small commissions obtained thanks to his grandson Girolamo Simone, appointed young canon of the Cathedral of St. Lorenzo in Perugia. Between 1487 and 1488 Pintoricchio works in the yard of the house of Pope Innocenzo III in Vatican. After not even two years he works in the “hall of Months” in the palace of the Cardinal Domenico della Rovere and in the chapels of Santa Maria del Popolo and from 1492 to 1496 he works at the Cathedral of Orvieto.

Meanwhile, he continues to work in Rome where he decorates the new Pope Alessandro VI Borgia ‘s Vatican apartments and where he prepares the table for the altar of Santa Maria dei Fossi, which is perhaps one of his most significant works.. In this period, commissions in Perugia, Orvieto and Spello are very profitable and, together with wealth, in 1501 came the first satisfactions in politics :in fact, he is called to hold office of “Prior of Arts” in Perugia. The vicissitudes of the artist’s life are tied to political events of the time: in addition to being close to Cesare Borgia, Pintoricchio is very attached to the Baglioni family, from which he receives a task to decorates the walls of the Chapel “Bella “ in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello ( Chapel Baglioni),a text painted between autumn 1500 and spring 1501 which will remain one of the most succesfull and significant work in the Umbrian art scene and which is considered his most extraordinary masterpiece.

The cycles of frescoes in the Piccolomini Library in Siena, where the artist tells the stories of Pope Pio II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini – with the help of Ambrogio Barocci who owes a great architectural structure and with the help of Raffaello, who prepares cartons for the scenes – marks the crowning success reached by the painter from Perugia.

In 1506 Pintoricchio receives the task to do a great altarpiece for the altar of the Church of sant’Andrea in Spello but other important commissions in Siena forcing him, one years later, to leave work. He commits the painting of the altarpiece to the painter from Perugia Eusebio di san Giorgio, with the prayer to stick to the drawings prepared by him. He returns in 1508 to complete, according to agreements made with the customers, the heads of the characters and round with Christ’s mercy in coping, the more significant parts of the work, and then again for Siena.
Between 1509 and 1510 he paints the ceiling of the “Chapel of oak”, his last work in Rome. Sick, in 1513 he retires in Siena’s countryside where he dies on 11 December of that year, already abandoned by his wife, rich and alone.
The dispute with the Doctors of the Temple
Santa Maria Maggiore
Internal photos of Santa Maria dei Fossi