Known as the Drappellone, the Palio itself is a painted silk banner referred to also as the cencio by the locals. Shaped like an elongated rectangle, the banner is handed to the winning Contrada as trophy at the close of the race.
Given that each banner is painted specifically for each Palio, the banners have a unique historical value that ties them to a particular moment. All the banners display the symbols of the governments under whose administration the Palio takes place, and therefore range from the coats of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lorraine to those of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Kingdom of Italy, the Fascist government prior to World War Two and later the Italian Republic.
The artist commissioned to paint the Palio must observe certain strict regulations, such as the religious symbols that must appear on the banner, with the July Palio dedicated to the Madonna of Provenzano and the August Palio dedicated to the Assumption. It is tradition that the painting of the Provenzano Palio is entrusted to a local artist, while the Assumption Palio is commissioned from a non-Senese artist.
A number of internationally acclaimed artists, both from Italy and abroad, have been commissioned to paint the Palio in the last century. The banners are kept in the museums of each winning Contrada.
Here are some of the best known Palios, followed by the artists who painted them:
Contrada dell’Aquila: Gianni Dova and Bruno Cassinari;
Contrada della Chiocciola: Aligi Sassu and Arturo Carmassi;
Contrada del Drago: Gérard Fromanger and Ruggero Savinio;
Contrada della Giraffa: Renato Guttuso and Renzo Vespignani;
Contrada dell’Oca: Jean-Michel Folon;
Contrada dell’Onda: Corrado Cagli and Leonardo Cremonini;
Contrada della Pantera: Alberto Sughi, Ennio Calabria and Leo Lionni;
Contrada della Selva: Mino Maccari, Ugo Attardi and Bruno Saetti;
Contrada di Valdimontone: Salvatore Fiume;