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Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta’s Surprising Duality: Images and Words

 

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin

 

For some 650 years, it has been fun to recount how Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini (1417-1468), was three times burned in effigy and damned to hell by Pius II, the reigning pope. No one like him had been seen before or after. Yet at the same time, Sigismondo was responsible for two of the most noble and solemn works of art from the fifteenth century: the Tempio Malatestiano and Piero della Francesca’s fresco of Sigismondo Kneeling in Prayer before his Patron Saint. The duality voiced in this simple description points to an even deeper duality in the aspirations of the man, expressed visually in the works of art he inspired.