MO return to Italian painting in I the quattrocento (where we left it to follow the developments in Northern Europe) is to return to another world. A medieval world still in many respects. especially in Siena, which artistically may, even in those days, have been considered a hack-water of reaction. In Siena the gothic charm from the north found a sympathetic response.
The Siennese people were lighthearted and gay and chivalrous. Courtly manners, fashionable clothes and fastidious elegance appealed to their elevated sense of pleasure, and their contemporary painters turned gratefully back to Simone Martini for graceful gothic forms and gold grounds.
Sassetta was the earliest of the Siennese gothic group of the early 15th century. and his first works share the taste for a kind of contemplative gorgeousness with the
great Martini. dead three-quarters of a century ago.
In a series of small panels remaining to us from the altarpiece for the "Arte delta Lana" (to pay for which a special tax was put on wool). Sassetla already shows a perfection of technique. an acute observation of natural objects and a depth of simple spiritual feeling characteristic not only of his later work but also of the entire quattrocento Siennese schoolsto follow.
St. Thomas Aquinas, illustrated here, probably from the "Arte della Lana" altarpiece, shows an elaboration of architecture with a true feeling for its perspective and a fascination for the more complicated settings of interior scenes— a taste indeed for domestic detail which was to grow with time while the mystical element was to diminish.