In the visit to the historic center of Siena it is rarely possible to find a small treasure trove of Renaissance art in the middle of the Gothic architecture for which the town is famous. Going along Via Montanini is the little church of the Madonna delle Nevi. Built by Bishop Giovanni Chinugi, the first bishop of the new diocese of Pienza, established by his fraternal friend Pio II, the church stands on the ancient route of the Via Francigena, and was finished in 1477.
The aspect of the church is “a small temple” shaped following a style that will have much luck in the second half of the fifteenth century in Siena. The author of the church is not known exactly, although mention is often made of Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
In the simplicity of the interior, on the only altar of the church is preserved one of the masterpieces of Sienese painting of the fifteenth century: the Madonna delle Nevi, painted1477 by the painter Matteo di Giovanni.
An artist particularly sensitive to Renaissance novelties, as can be deduced from the attention to the perspective rendering of the floor and the throne, the panel features the Virgin between St. Peter, the Evangelist Youth, Lorenzo and St. Catherine of Siena. Above the throne of the Madonna, two angels hold two snowballs, an allusion to the title by which the Madonna is worshipped on August 5th, when she remembers the miracle of the snow that occurred in Rome in 352 and after which it happened the construction of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The painting by Matteo di Giovanni stands out as one of the artist’s most delicate compositions which, with the wise use of the gold leaf in the haloes and in the robe of the Madonna, succeeded in giving a calm luminosity to the whole composition.
Tourist guide of Florence and Siena