The Sala IV (Hall 4) contains the works of Signorelli and his workshop. Luca Signorelli was born in Cortona around 1455 and died here in 1523. He was one of the most important painters of the Italian Renaissance. His nudes anticipate those of Michelangelo, while his landscapes echo the rhythmic compositions of Perugino.
THE DEAD CHRIST MOURNED. The unmoving figures have been caught in a moment of suspense and frozen drama in an image which is strongly reminiscent of popular holy demonstrations. The nude Christ is tied to a story from Vasari claiming that this portrait was mad by his son, who died in the plague of 1502. The panel was painted in 1502 for the main altar of the Church of Santa Margherita.
COMMUNION OF THE APOSTLES. This painting is dated in 1512 and should be compared with the preceding one to pick up the evolution of Signorelli as a man and an artist. There is a struggle to get away from the crude and tragic style of his paintings about the Final Judgment in Orvieto and the Dead Christ Mourned in Cortona. He tried to imitate the soft tones, the airy and decorative architecture of Raphael and the new school of the 1500's that influenced the painting at the time. Stupendous is the figure of Judas who hides the host in his black shoulder bag and turns toward the exterior of the painting. He expresses with a glance the painful knowledge of his treason. It was painted for the main altar of the Church of Gesù.
After this work the master's intervention on subsequent paintings in the workshop located in Cortona are increasingly rare. The painter started to considerably feel the decline of his artistic reputation and this triggered a crisis in his artistic and personal life. This crisis had an influence on all his last activities. He was strained to change his style of painting to adapt to the great artistic renovations at the beginning of the 1500's and the dominant figure of Raphael. Therefore he left the greater part of the work, which was still commissioned to him, to his assistants in his workshop in Cortona, in particular to his nephew Francesco, though his personality still dominated the work.
Passing through the Sala V (Hall 5), taking the large staircase downwards where the cartoons of the Way of the Cross designed by Cortonese artist Gino Severini (1883-1966) are displayed, we enter the Sala VI (Hall 6), which was the oratory of the Church of Gesù. The walls are frescoed by Cristofano Gherardi, a student of Vasari. They represent twelve biblical sacrifices, while the paintings in the vaulted ceiling illustrate the Transfiguration in the center and the descent into limbo and the conversion of Saint Paul on the sides. In the Sala VII (Hall 7) on should admire:
THE CASALI CHALICE, a stupendous piece of Sienese gold work from the 14th century signed by Michele di Tommé coming from the old church of Santa Margherita.
THE VAGNUCCI RELIQUARY. This work of Giusto from Florence, a Florentine goldsmith from the 15th century, was given to the Capitolo of the Cathedral by Cortonese citizen Iacopo Vagnucci (1415-1487), who was the secretary of Pope Niccolò V and of the Bishop of Perugia.
The Sala VIII (Hall 8) contains THE PASSERINI CELEBRATIONAL VESTMENTS. This stupendous set of ceremonial vestments is composed of thirteen pieces of crimson velvet brocade. It was ordered to a Florentine factory between 1517 and 1526 by Cortonese Cardinal Silvio Passerini (1470-1529). This work gives an idea of the degree of technical and artistic perfection the Florentine manufacturers had reached. At that time they were preparing textiles for the clothing of the sovereigns of all of the courts of Europe, of their dignitaries and of their palaces. A tree trunk pattern repeats on the cloth, creating a chain pattern in the center of which there is the reclining ox of Cardinal Passerini's crest. At the intersecting points there is a ring with the diamonds of the Medici. The designs are accredited to Andrea del Sarto and Raffaellino del Garbo. The paint of the Transfiguration on the hood of the cope is very impressive, like the crest of the cardinal on the frontal part of the altar.
In the Sala IX (Hall 9) three canvasses are shown to the public: The Immaculate is a painting from the school of Raphael from the end of the 1500's. Its origins are unknown. The Ectasy of Santa Margherita was painted in 1701 by Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747) and comes from the Venuti chapel of the Church of Santa Maria Nuova. The Miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua from the Venetian school of Piazzetta was painted in 1750 by Francesco Capella (1711-1774) and was originally in the Church of San Filippo.
Archives of the Bishop's curate
The archive of the bishop's curate is located in the bishop's palace and gathers some of the most ancient documents from the religious and civil history of the city. Unfortunately it has never been modernly organized and catalogued, so it cannot be easily consulted by scholars.