The Pope's chapels and private apartments have preserved invaluable frescoes which testify to the innovative work of the French and Italian schools of painting in the 1284th century. The painted decorations of the chapels of Saint Martial, Saint Jean and the Great Audience were executed by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti. Before him, the renowned painter Simone Martini (1344-XNUMX) had produced the remarkable frescoes of the portal of the cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms, currently presented in the hall of the consistory of the Palace of the Popes.
The chapel of Saint-Martial
This oratory adjoining the Grand Tinel houses the deliberations during the conclaves in a decor full of details, made up of frescoes painted by Matteo Giovannetti between 1344 and 1345, at the request of Clement VI. The captioned and alphabetically ordered scenes, with perspective effects and innovative realism, are read in a spiral from the vault down. They recount the wonderful life of Saint Martial, who came to evangelize Limousin, the pope's native region, at the request of Saint Peter.
All of the frescoes were restored in 2014, with the help of the BNP Paribas Foundation. Due to the extreme fragility of its painted decorations, the Chapel is open to visitors by reservation only.
The Chapel of Saint John
Located just below the Saint-Martial chapel, the Saint-Jean chapel is the oratory of the consistory. It bears this name because its walls and vault are decorated with frescoes narrating the life of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. This painted cycle was produced between 1346 and 1348 by a team led by Matteo Giovannetti.
Contrary to the Saint-Martial chapel where he dealt with a new theme, the painter takes up here a very widespread subject at the time, in particular at the Saint-Jean de Lateran basilica in Rome. Relying on a classic and codified iconography, the painter built a more refined and less bubbling decorative ensemble than that of the Saint-Martial chapel. He remains no less innovative in his way of asserting his taste for naturalism, the art of the portrait and the skilfully elaborated layouts, relating to the most accomplished Italian pictorial experiments.
Frescoes of the Prophets
It was made by Matteo Giovannetti in 1353 and adorns the vault of the last bay of the Great Audience. The twenty prophets, kings and patriarchs of the Old Testament who enliven the scene, each displaying an extract from the Holy Scriptures. The diversity of their attitudes and their expressions, both noble and human, expresses with virtuosity the talent of portrait painter of Matteo Giovannetti, who here reaches the summit of his art.
Good to know
Matteo Giovannetti and the pictor pope (pope's painter). Born in Viterbo around 1300, he became prior of the church of San Martino in 1336. He arrived in Avignon around 1343. He obtained the prestigious title of painter from the pope in 1346 and directed the major decoration projects of the palace. He probably died in Rome in 1369 where he was working on the decoration of the Vatican Palace. He will have spent his entire career outside Italy in the exclusive service of the Prince of the Church. Rediscovered belatedly by art historians, this artist became the interpreter in Avignon of the great Tuscan pictorial innovations. He is distinguished by his great qualities as a portrait painter, his taste for naturalism and his science of spatial layout which he plays brilliantly, multiplying the effects of perspective and trompe-l'oeil.
The painted rooms
The painted rooms are at the junction of the old palace and the new palace and constitute the heart of the private apartments of the Pope.
On a blue background like the sky, a two-dimensional plant space made of vine and oak foliage, dotted with birds and squirrels, adorns the walls. Evoking a textile decoration, these paintings probably date from the years 1337-1338. The window embrasures offer a surprising decor in perspective: a series of delicate Gothic arches carry cages of various shapes; some hold birds, but most are empty.
Chamber of the Deer
A narrow corridor leads from the Chambre du Pape to the Chambre du Cerf, Clement VI's study. The Franco-Italian team which worked here in 1343 evoked in an uninterrupted panorama the seigniorial pleasures. Various hunting and fishing techniques are presented: decoy hunting, ferret hunting, fishing in the pond. The deer hunting scene, an aristocratic pastime par excellence, must have made an impression since it left its name to the room.
Domesticated and peaceful, the forest that appears in the background offers a luxuriance of trees, fruits, herbs and flowers. In the trees, characters pick fruit and unearth birds. Beneath the richly decorated frame runs a frieze, on a red background, populated with scenes of fishing, hunting and real or fantastic animals