The Loggia della Mercanzia, original home of these sculptures, is nestled in the heart of Siena, at a crucial urban junction, and was concluded in 1445 to become the headquarters of the Arte della Mercanzia. This architecture, with its precious statues, was the city’s first example of fully three-dimensional sculptures, autonomous from the structure that held them: a characteristic of the Renaissance taste that would progressively and systematically impose itself in the art world.
The five statues located on the pedestals (nowadays replaced with copies), are the work of Antonio Federighi (author specifically of San Savino, Sant’Ansano, and San Vittore, three of the four patron saints of Siena) and of Lorenzo di Pietro called Vecchietta (to whom are owed San Pietro and San Paolo). The day the statues of San Paolo and Sant’Ansano were commissioned was the same day the Loggia commissioned a statue of San Bernardino from Donatello, a work which was never realized. Nevertheless, the potential presence of such a great master on the construction site sparked something in the two Sienese artists, who, for however much they were already established, didn’t want to risk being shown up by Donatello. For this reason they took advantage of the opportunity to renew their style following the new standards of the Renaissance.
Vecchietta’s hand reveals his predilection for jewelry arts: compared to the works of his colleague Federighi, his statues are rounded, carefully designed down to the smallest details, like the decoration on the lower hems of the vests, or the calligraphic tufts of the beard, or still yet the ornaments on the cover of the book in San Pietro’s hand, or the wrinkles on both saints. Moreover, both of their feet stick out from the pedestals by almost half a step, just like Donatello’s statues Fede and Speranza did in 1429, for the baptismal font of Siena. And it is below those feet that the name of Lorenzo di Pietro appears as the painter (OPVS. LAURENTII. PETRI. PI°TORIS. SENENSIS), an authentication that reveals the artist’s marketing strategy; that, in front of an esteemed sculpture of his making, he takes care to communicate to the public that he has the same abilities in painting as well.