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Perugino’s tomb in Fontignano

The church of Santa Maria dell'Annunziata is located in the small hamlet of Fontignano in the municipality of Perugia. The church is in Romanesque style with a single nave; it is regarded as the last place of work of Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino, and houses the tomb of the "divine painter."

The church originally belonged to the confraternity of the Annunziata, which commissioned its decoration in 1521 from Perugino, by then in his seventies. The painter probably frescoed five works: the Madonna and Child (the only remaining fresco) on the right wall, the Adoration of the Shepherds on the gable of the church, a St. Rocco, a St. Sebastian, and another Madonna and Child (now missing).

The Madonna and Child was probably painted from the same cartoon as that used for the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello.

The Virgin's feet rest on a base bearing the name of the donor (ANGNIOLVS TONI ANGELI), and the year in which it was painted, 1522 (FECIT FIERI MDXXII). Agnolo was probably a wealthy local who had commissioned the work as per tradition as a sign of thanksgiving to the Madonna on the occasion of the birth of a male heir; for this reason, the Madonna and Child was one of the most popular themes for private commissions, and Perugino himself made many of them in his lifetime (about eighty). The Virgin here is depicted is massive, seated on a throne, her absent gaze deflected by the Child absorbed in silent contemplation and directed toward the viewer. There is unfortunately almost nothing left on the horizon, but it is plausible to think that there were those very low and gentle hills typical of Umbria that the artist liked so much to depict. Long ago the fresco was covered with a layer of lime, it is not known whether because of the plague (lime disinfected) or because of the poor conditions of preservation.


Another painting in the church, but unfinished, was the Adoration of the Shepherds: it covered the entire upper part of the wall from edge to edge (about 7 meters). It was detached around the mid-19th century by Father Nazareno Bonomi, vicar general of the Paulines of Santo Spirito in Perugia. Only two small-scale reproductions of it remain today in the Church of the Annunziata.

In 1523, by then marginalized from the most prestigious circles because of the poor development he had undergone over the years, the painter was struck by the plague and died right here in Fontignano, while he was frescoing the Adoration.

In 1925 a superficially and hastily made burial was discovered. A skull and other bones were found along with small pots containing colours, dating from 1524/25. Studies on physiognomy and the Carbon 14 process confirmed the attribution of the human remains to Perugino. The bones were then placed in the present urn, dated 1929, where the epigraph PETRVS-PERVSINVS-PICTOR appears; the event was celebrated with a visit from the then minister of National Education, Giuseppe Bottai. Today on the plaque displayed above Perugino's tomb appears the present inscription:

Pietro vannucci of Città della pieve, citizen of Perugia. in this small church in a humble village, while applying himself to his last work, he was raptured by death. the public authorities and the citizens, dutifully honouring his illustrious memory, in the beauty of these places beloved by him, which he represented admirably with his painting, did not want his body to be taken away and cared that it be kept with a more honourable tomb here, where he manifested, renewing them, the flourishing old age and eternal fame of glory with the last testimony of his art.


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