Biccherne Museum in Siena
Display of account registers: true works of art
The Biccherne Museum lies within the State Archive of Siena, which is itself situated in a fine example of Renaissance architecture: Palazzo Piccolomini. The Museum holds a collection of around a hundred painted panels which were produced as covers for the account registers of the various Sienese judiciaries from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the eighteenth century. These covers were decorated with fine paintings by the most important Sienese artists. This practice was followed by the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, the Gabella (tax office) and the City Chamber. A little while later the institutions dedicated to the production of inventories and bill registers also began to commission these valuable covers. The collection of panels is important in documenting how the city of Siena and the management of its public affairs evolved. Comparing the panels, you can see how their form and function changed, from plain wooden covers to true works of art. There are three ways for visitors to view the panels: by the artist, by the topic of the entries, or by the subjects of the pictures that vary from the political and religious mould.