It can occur that those visiting Casole d’Elsa, which is perched on one of the hills making up a landscape that seems to be more of a painting than a real-life scenario, can be so dazzled by the tenderness of the scenic greenery that they may forget to venture through the town’s stony alleys to discover its hidden gems. From sacred images to peasant scenes, there are unique paintings to be found here. Stories of faith, of devotion and of hard work in the fields, the legacy of artists who have, with their works, managed to take a snapshot of time’s passing amongst our gentle landscape.
The first artist we like to reminisce about hails from a faraway age went by the name of “Maestro Alessandro da Menzano”, and was born in the middle of the 16th century in an old castle in the Casole countryside. He was amongst the most renowned artists of the Siena area during his time, and for this very reason, his fellow citizens commissioned the building of the imposing Pietà to him, which was to be placed on the Compagnia della Madonna di San Niccolò altar. The story goes that when the panel painting had been finished, the confreres carried it on their shoulders from Siena to Casole, and having reached their destination, the celebrations for the work that had just arrived were memorable. Today, the painting is preserved in the transept of the abbey church.
The figure and the works of Augusto Bastianini are closer to us timewise; born in 1875, he was a professor at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. His works have passed on Casole’s sceneries to us, together with uses and traditions of farmer communities of the area. The countryside is the setting to Augusto’s narration of ritual actions that farm labourers would repeat from season to season, making up a tale that would enhance the harmony existing between benevolent nature and mankind, who would perceive the former as its only hope in living a dignified life, albeit a hard one, too. Augusto’s works, displayed today in Casole’s museum, document all the phases of his artistic production, as well other thematic strands that were particularly suited to his artistic interests, such as the depiction of the farming industry, nude studies, “impressions” taken from his prolific travelling, ending with a series of portraits, this being an artistic field he spent ample time on from a very young age, experimenting with various artistic techniques, too.