Chigi Palace

Palazzo Chigi, now the seat of the City Council, commissioned in the second half of the 17th century by Cardinal Flavio Chigi and designed by architect Carlo Fontana.

Flavio Chigi wanted a very rich figurative program, giving as broad a picture as possible of all the most common motifs of secular decorations of the period: Seasons, Zodiac Signs, Elements, Arts. This was done by drawing from the most common iconographic repertoires and sources for the time.

The fresco ornamentation of the palace’s two floors was prepared in a short time, thanks to the collaboration between a veritable host of painters and decorators, who worked in a very close-knit atmosphere. In the wall paintings on the piano nobile, where the more or less extensive remnants of room frescoes show how the subjects depicted were the signs of the Zodiac, Cardinal Flavio Chigi probably wanted to celebrate himself. Giovan Battista delle figure (figures), Michelangelo Ricciolini (figures), Niccolò Stanchi (flora and fauna), and François Simonot (“boscarecce”) collaborated on the frescoes in the rooms. Different subjects are depicted on the second floor, where mythological representations instead stand out alongside allegories of the Seasons and the Elements.

Palazzo Chigi Zondadari, a historic baroque building located in Piazza Chigi, San Quirico d’Orcia

Second floor


Within the rich decoration of the palace, executed by various artists at the behest of Cardinal Flavio Chigi himself, are the
Stories of Alexander the Great
, the subject of the large canvases that embellished the hall. It is a series of episodes centered on the figure of an ancient hero, whose person is idealized. The Stories of Alexander the Great are intended as Cardinal Chigi’s tribute to his uncle, Pope Alexander VII.

The large canvases, made by Michelangelo Ricciolini, refer to the following episodes: Alexander and Timoclea, Alexander and Diogenes, Alexander cuts Gordio’s knot, Alexander and the physician Philip, The family of Darius before Alexander, Alexander kills a lion. Of the eight canvases that decorated the walls, only one has been restored and relocated to its original position, and it depicts one of the two scenes in which Darius’s family appears before Alexander the Great. The making technique is rather unusual, poor and fast. This is a technique generally referred to as “lean tempera,” which in this case has been further simplified. In fact, the color was spread directly on the canvas with egg white as a binder, without the use of any preparatory layer. This is an extremely delicate and fragile technique that results in an opaque paint. The reason for choosing such a particular system is probably to be found in the desire to quickly achieve a result over large areas, at the lowest possible cost.

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