The frieze is located on the back side of the Ospedale del Ceppo in Pistoia.
The story of the frieze is linked to the building and to its architecture. The external loggia was built in 1514 by Leonardo Buonafede, from Florence. In 1522 was commissioned the frieze, that represents the The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy, alternated by the cardinal and theological virtues. The authorship of the frieze is attributed to Giovanni Della Robbia, excluding the last part, that was completed by Filippo Paladini1. The entire system is organized on the basis of Renaissance architecture, with six arches. In the framework we can see the frieze, composed of seven panels (one for every Work of Mercy). The seven works of the Mercy are:
VISITING ILL PEOPLE
In the center there's Mr Buonafede, who is listening to the recommendations of a doctor. The image on the left side refers to a medical examination; the patient is an old man, and the doctor is feeling his pulse. On the left, around the other bed, a different group of two doctors and a nurse is looking after a young patient with a wound on his head
In this panel there are four episodes; the first one is in the darkest corner of the prison: an old man is listening to the prayers of a prisoner. Then, we can see Jesus in chains seated on the ground and St. Lorence martyred in prison. There's also a portrait of the rector of the hospital, who embodies the perfect image of religious and wordly man. On the right extremity we can see a noble man with two servants who are offering food and clothes to detainees.
BURYING DEAD PEOPLE
On the left side is represented the burial of a dead man, hold by a relative. Next to his tomb we can see two other characters: a humble man and a noble man. On the right side we see the funeral of one of the nuns of the first panel; a priest surrounded by altar boys is reading a book for her.
ACCOMODATING THE PILGRIMS
The first four characters with colorful clothes on the left, who are taking shells and walking sticks with them, are the pilgrims. Next to them is represented a conversation between Jesus and a monk of the hospital. The final episode of this panel is the "Jesus-pilgrim foot washing" by Leonardo Buonafede.
WEARING NAKED PEOPLE AND TAKING CARE OF THE WIDOWS
In the central part of the panel we can admire the figure of the rector of the hospital who is offering gifts to devotee people. On the right side there are six female characters: two nuns of the hospital, a young novice orphan and three humble women (probably widows), with a baby.
FEEDING HUNGRY PEOPLE
In this panel the rector of the hospital is offering food to needy people; he seems to invite a poor man not to refuse his help. On the other side, a rich benefactor followed by two servants is keeping a basket full of bread destined to a hungry crowd of humble people.
QUECHING THIRSTY PEOPLE
This panel is really different from the others, less incisive and effective; the main character is changed, now the center of the scene is occupied by Bartolomeo Montechiari, not by Mr Buonafede anymore. This panel closes the cycle.
- Photos, main text and page layout by Nazareno Varricchio ti.ecila|oihccirrav.onerazan#| and Elena Cimaroli moc.liamg|iloramic.anele#| (January 2016)
- Locate the item on this Google Map
- Francesco Gurrieri ed Aurelio Amendola, Il fregio robbiano dell’Ospedale del Ceppo a Pistoia, Edizioni del Comune di Pistoia, Pistoia 1982