Pietro di Francesco degli Orioli Adoration of the Shepherds


Foundation Monte dei Paschi di Siena


1493 - 1494


495 x 665 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The painting depicts shepherds witnessing the birth of Jesus. The scene takes place outdoors under a shelter supported by tree branches. Behind there’s a landscape with hills, houses and mountains on the horizon. Mary is kneeling, her hands clasped in prayer and adoring the child, who is resting on a saddle which is turned upside down. Joseph is kneeling on the other side of the saddle. Behind Mary and Joseph there are two shepherds looking at the child. One has crossed his hands on his chest and other has opened his arms as if to show his excitement. Far right in the background you can see the previous scene, when the two shepherds are still on their way to see the child with rush. The composition is well-measured and playing on diagonal lines that tend to accentuate the movement, like the child who seems to want to jump out from the cradle, or the shepherds in the background who are walking briskly and talking vividly. The design is well-defined and the slender figures are plastic, thanks to the chiaroscuro effect and the use of light, like shown in the shepherds’ facial features. Pietro di Francesco Orioli had already made paintings with similar subject in the past, such as the work in the church of Sant’Agostino in Massa Marittima, which was influenced by the works of his master Matteo Di Giovanni and Francesco Di Giorgio, as seen in the slim and vivid figures. In this work the composition is more measured and solemn and the figures have more severe expressions, while the colors are deeper and accentuated with the chiaroscuro effect. From 1807 to 1996 the painting was in the Kinnaird Collection in Scotland, and then it was passed to Hazlitt Gooden Fox in London where it remained until 2006, when it was bought by Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

Artist Details

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Pietro di Francesco was born in Siena in 1458 and he got his nickname “degli Orioli” from his father, who was in charge for the public clocks in Siena and San Gimignano.

He studied in his native city with Matteo di Giovanni, who influenced a lot his works, especially in his early period. Some of these works had quite archaic structure and composition, like in his Gothic arches (Nativity, Massa Marittima, Church of Sant’Agostino; Madonna with Child and Saints, Buonconvento, Parish church of Pietro e Paolo).

Madonna with Child and Two Angels (Wiliamstown, Massachusetts, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute) and the Delivery of the Keys of the City of Siena to Madonna (Gabella panel, 1483, Siena, State Archives) are among his famous paintings.

From the 1480s’ his works were influenced by the latest works of Domenico Ghirlandaio and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, with whom he worked on the frescoes of the Bichi chapel in the church of Sant’Agostino in Siena (1490). Among these works were the Holy Family with Angels (Traversetolo a Mamiano, Fondazione Magnani Rocca) and Madonna with Child and the Saints Onuphrius and Bartholomew (Siena Pinacoteca Nazionale).

There was a strong influence of Francesco di Giorgio and his architectural studies and perspective, which Pietro used in illusionistic and spatial effects, like in the Foot Washing for the Baptistery of Siena (1489), the Illusionistic Perspectives (1492, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena) and the Coronation of the Virgin of San Leonardo in San Casciano ai Bagni (1490).

Between 1485 and 1490 he probably stayed in Urbino, in the house of Montefeltro, where he studied the works of Piero Della Francesca.

He returned to Siena in 1492 where he was commissioned the frescoes with illusionistic perspectives and the arches in Palazzo Pubblico, in the room with the cycle of works by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. On that occasion Pietro restored the paintings.

He died in Siena in 1496, probably of plague.

Collection Details

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Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation was established on August 28, 1995 with the conferment of banking activity and it is the oldest bank in the world still operating.

The headquarters is in Palazzo Sansedoni of Piazza del Campo, Siena, and the main mission is to carry out philanthropic activities in cultural, artistic and environmental sectors.

The foundation owns and preserves two collections: the collection of Artworks and Malandrini collection of photographs. Both collections can be found on digital version online.

The artwork collection includes 57 pieces representing prestigious examples of Sienese art, some of which have been lost for centuries. A special committee of scholars and art historians was set up to identify the works of Sienese school between the 13th and 18th century. Among the artworks there are Segna di Bonaventura’s Madonna with Child Enthroned, St. Bartholomew, St. Ansanus and a Donor, Maestro dell’Osservanza’s Santa Lucia, Brescianino’s Madonna with Child and Little St. John, Ventura Salimbeni’s Santa Cecilia, Francesco Vanni’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Rutilio Manetti’s St. Jerome in Penitence and Bernardo Mei’s Holy Family with Magdalene.

The Malandri collection was named after the founder, photographer Ferruccio Malandrini, and it was established in 1975. The collection includes historical photographs from Siena territory, taken between 1853 and 1950. There are 135 units in the collection. The units consist of different themes, origins and technical and historical characteristics and in total they include 11,389 photographs.