Aurelio Martelli (1644–1721)


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The son of merchants Carlo Martelli and Caterina Umoroni, Aurelio Martelli was born in Siena in 1644. He learnt the foundations of painting in the Sienese workshop owned by Giovanni Battista Ramacciotti (1628-1671), a painter, engraver and priest specialised in portraiture and historical painting. It might be possible that Martelli’s artistic education was facilitated by his paternal uncle, Jacopo, also a priest in the parish of San Desiderio. A link between the painting of Aurelio and that of Ramacciotti seems to be confirmed by Martelli’s first work, a Nativity of the Virgin signed “AURELIO MARTELLI FECIT 1667”, completed for the chapel of the Madonna della Pace in church of San Giovannino in Pantaneto and partially reproduced in a preparatory study which takes up the central group with the midwife and angels. The canvas—inspired by a similar composition by Ramacciotti today at Palazzo Pitti— is informed by the classicist tradition and soft tones typical of Sienese Baroque painting and prefigures the beginning of an artistic journey that will see Martelli employed in the creation and conservation of altarpieces in religious buildings of his city including the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the church of Sant’Antonio Abate and the church of San Giacomo in Salicotto for which he completed a Virgin and Child with Sts. Anne and John the Baptist mentioned in 1761 by Giovanni Antonio Pecci. The reputation earned by Martelli from his Sienese clients is also confirmed by the creation of three allegorical canvases representing St. Joseph of the art of carpenters, St. Baldomero of the art of blacksmiths and St Guglielmo of the art of bakers for the headquarters of Sienese Art Guild.

A letter signed in 1753 by Ottavio Sansedoni identifies Aurelio as the author of a Portrait of Giovanni di Ambrogio Sansedoni, once conserved in the Sansedoni family Palace in Siena and recently appeared in the Florentine antiques market. Martelli’s activity as a portraitist is also demonstrated by an inventory of the Bargagli collection which lists a “Portrait of Girolama Bargagli painted by Martelli Mutolo”.  It is interesting to note that following his fiftieth birthday, Aurelio put his art at the service of the many charitable institutions of his city such as the Company of Santa Caterina della Notte. To this end, two receipts dated 10 May and 13 December 1701 testify of works he carried out “for charity”, for which he received a modest reimbursement aimed only at covering the cost of the materials.  


Ciampolini, Marco. ‘Aurelio Martelli detto il Mutolo’. In Pittori senesi del Seicento, Marco Ciampolini (ed.), Siena, 2010, 317-323.

Leoncini, Alessandro. ‘Il Palazzo del Rettorato dell’Università di Siena’. Annali di Storia delle Università italiane, 10, 2006, 127-140.

Pecci, Giovanni Antonio. Ristretto delle cose più notabili della città di Siena. Siena, 1761.

Romagnoli, Ettore. Biografia Cronologica de’ Bellartisti Senesi 1200-1800. Siena, ante 1835.

Sottili, Fabio. ‘Alcuni dipinti della quadreria Sansedoni’. Accademia dei Rozzi, 49, 2018, 31-53.