Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art

Cimabue

Dante

Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano

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Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

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Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

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Domenico Ghirlandaio

Giambologna

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Giovanni da San Giovanni

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Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

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Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli

masaccio

masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of sain tfrancis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello

perugino

piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti

pinturicchio

pontormo

sandro botticelli

sano di pietro

sassetta

simone martini

spinello aretino


taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio

vecchietta

 

             
 
I T
Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maesta Altarpiece, about 1308-1311, gold and tempera on panel, 370 x 450 cm, Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Travel guide for Tuscany
       
   

Maestà Altarpiece (1308-1311)



   
   
One of the greatest Italian painters of the Middle Ages, Duccio di Buoninsegna was the founder of the Sienese school.
The Sienese School of painting flourished in Siena, Italy between the 13th and 15th centuries. Duccio's role in the development of early Sienese painting may be equated roughly with the roles of both Cimabue and Giotto in the development of Florentine painting. In Duccio’s art the formality of the Italo-Byzantine tradition, strengthened by a clearer understanding of its evolution from classical roots, is fused with the new spirituality of the Gothic style. Greatest of all his works is the Maestà (1311), the altarpiece of the Siena cathedral.
Duccio's famous Maestà was commissioned by the Siena Cathedral in 138 and it was completed in 1311. Today most of this elaborate double-sided altarpiece is in the cathedral museum but several of the predella panels are scattered outside Italy in various museums. It is probably the most important panel ever painted in Italy; it is certainly among the most beautiful. Compressed within the compass of an altarpiece is the equivalent of an entire programme for the fresco painting of a church.
The Maestà painted by Duccio for the Cathedral in Siena, is arguably the greatest panel painting that has ever been produced. On the unusually wide main panel are the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints and angels. Beneath it and above it are a narrative predella with scenes from the infancy of Christ, and seven scenes from the life of the Virgin. Corresponding to this on the back there are twenty-six scenes from Christ's Passion. Originally there were subsidiary scenes from Christ's life above and below the main panel. The whole work is a superb standard of craftsmanship, and the exquisite colouring and supple draughtsmanship create effects of great beauty. In the first decade of the fourteenth century, through the transcendent genius of one artist, a stylistic standard was established to which later painters could not but conform.
 
Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maesta Altarpiece(verso), Stories of the Passion, 1308-11, tempera on wood, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

The main element of the back consisted of fourteen panels, originally separated by little columns or pilasters (of about 4 cm) which were lost, together with the outside frame, in the dismembering of 1771.
Except for the Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion, each panel contains two episodes. The central part of the lower row with the Agony in the Garden and Christ taken Prisoner is twice as wide as the other compartments (but the same as the Crucifixion panel) because the events portrayed are composed of different narrative units.
Numerous contrasting theories have been advanced by critics for the order of interpretation, rendered problematical by the variety of New Testament sources drawn on by Duccio. It is certain that the cycle began at the bottom left and ended at the top right, proceeding from left to right first on the lower row and then on the upper.

 

 
   
   
Back Panels of the Maestà

 
The episodes on the reverse side were intended for spectators in the presbytery, who could get closer to the panel than the faithful who congregated in the main body of the church. The central section, with 26 scenes from Christ’s Passion, represents the most comprehensive Passion cycle, which has survived. In contains stories from all four Gospels. The sequence of pictures now offered in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo may not be correct. The series undoubtedly begins, however, at the bottom left with The Entry into Jerusalem.  

Reading scheme of the reverse
1 Entry into Jerusalem

 
The scene is unusual because of the attention given to the landscape, which is rich in detail. The paved road, the city gate with battlements, the wall embrasures, the slender towers rising up above and the polygonal building of white marble reproduce a remarkably realistic layout, both urbanistically and architecturally. The small tree, withered and leafless, that shows behind Christ's halo, is the fig-tree that Christ found without fruit. Florens Deuchler has suggested that the literary source is a historical work of the first century A.D., the De Bello Judaico by Flavius Josephus which was well-known in the Middle Ages. The panel by Duccio is a faithful reproduction of the description of Jerusalem in Book V. Infrared photography during restoration has revealed several changes of mind regarding the area around the tree in the centre and the road.

The small tree, withered and leafless, that shows behind Christ's halo, is the fig-tree that Christ found without fruit.

Christ Entering Jerusalem is the final visit to the city, described by all four evangelists: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:12-15.
 
 
2 The Last Supper

 
The Last Supper is dominated by the central figure of Jesus who, to the astonishment of the onlookers, is offering bread to Judas Iscariot (shown in other panels with the same features). An unusual experiment with space has been made with John, whose position is traditional: the head of the favourite disciple is painted in front of the figure of Christ, and his halo behind Christ's shoulders. Wooden bowls, knives, a decorated jug and a meat dish, and the paschal lamb, are set on the table, which is covered with a simple tablecloth woven in a small diamond pattern.

 
3 Washing of the Feet

 
Only John tells the story of the Washing of the Feet and the events should therefore be read from the top downwards, according to the order in which they occur in this gospel. The setting is the interior, in central perspective, of an unadorned room; the only decorative elements are the coffered ceiling and the multifoiled insert placed on the rear wall. This detail must also be imagined in the Last Supper, hidden by Christ's halo, since it reappears in Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, which according to the gospel occurs in the same place.

Echoes from Byzantine art can be seen in the Washing of the Feet, in the crowded throng of the apostles and Peter's gesture, while Christ's position recalls Western models. The shape of the black sandals, aptly described by Cesare Brandi "as if they were precious onyx scarabs", is typical.

 
4 Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles

 
Following the story in John again, the scenes succeed each other from the bottom upwards although occurring simultaneously. While Jesus is giving the new commandment to the apostles (now eleven) , Judas betrays him for thirty pieces of silver. In Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, his sideways position, shown up by the half-open door, is in contrast to the closeknit group of disciples. They are all turning the same way in thoughtful attitudes, the soft drapery of their coloured robes animating the whole scene. As in the Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper Duccio has avoided haloes since the conspicuous shape of the golden discs might have created an overpowering effect, besides taking up most of the space in the picture.

 
5 Pact of Judas

 
The Pact of Judas is set in external surroundings where the space is arranged in varying degrees of depth. The group in the foreground, on the same level as the pillar on the right, is gathered in front of a loggia with cross-vaults and round arches. The polygonal tower, a little behind the central building, completes the background.

 
6 Agony in the Garden

 
In the Agony in the Garden, Jesus is turning to Peter, James the Great and John, shaking them and warning them not to fall into temptation, while the other disciples are sleeping. On the right, in accordance with the Gospel of St Luke, which is the only one to mention an angel appearing, he withdraws in prayer. In this quiet setting, both episodes are visualized through the gestures of Christ, Peter and the angel.
On the right, in accordance with the Gospel of St Luke, which is the only one to mention an angel appearing, Christ withdraws in prayer.

 
7 Christ Taken Prisoner

   
The Mount of Olives becomes the scene of unexpected agitation in Christ Taken Prisoner, containing three separate episodes: in the centre the kiss of Judas, to the left Peter cutting off the ear of the servant Malchus, to the right the flight of the apostles. The dramatic intensity of the scene, heightened by the crowded succession of spears, lanterns and torches, shows in the excited movements of the characters and the expressiveness of their faces. The landscape, after long being an anonymous feature of minor importance, takes on a new scenic role. The vegetation and rocky crags of Byzantine inspiration seem to be an integral part of the action: in the Agony in the Garden the three trees on the right isolate Christ, while in Christ Taken Prisoner they enclose the main episode, as if allowing the disciples to escape.

   
8 Pilate's First Interrogation of Christ

 
The surroundings for the scenes in which Pilate appears (Christ Accused by the Pharisees and Pilate's First Interrogation of Christ) are new since the events take place in the governor's palace. The slender spiral columns of white marble and the decoration carved along the top of the walls seem to refer to classical architecture. Pilate too, portrayed with the solemnity of a Roman emperor and crowned with a laurel wreath, evokes the world of classical antiquity. It is interesting to note how the latter's face still bears the slashings caused by medievalreligious fervour. The function of the beams placed on the capitals supporting a light and apparently unstable wooden roof is harder to explain.

As in the gospel, the group of Pharisees, animated by lively gestures (again the hand with pointing finger), is depicted outside the building: the Jews avoid going inside in order not to be defiled and to be able to eat the Passover meal.


 
9 Christ Accused by the Pharisees

 
The surroundings for the scenes in which Pilate appears (Christ Accused by the Pharisees and Pilate's First Interrogation of Christ) are new since the events take place in the governor's palace. The slender spiral columns of white marble and the decoration carved along the top of the walls seem to refer to classical architecture. Pilate too, portrayed with the solemnity of a Roman emperor and crowned with a laurel wreath, evokes the world of classical antiquity. It is interesting to note how the latter's face still bears the slashings caused by medievalreligious fervour. The function of the beams placed on the capitals supporting a light and apparently unstable wooden roof is harder to explain.

As in the gospel, the group of Pharisees, animated by lively gestures (again the hand with pointing finger), is depicted outside the building: the Jews avoid going inside in order not to be defiled and to be able to eat the Passover meal. In the upper scene, an overwhelming aura of solitude surrounds Christ.

 
10 Christ Before Caiaphas

 
According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, the compartment should be read from the bottom upwards. The scenes Christ before Caiaphas and Christ Mocked take place in the same surroundings, the lawcourt of the Sanhedrin, where Christ is brought before the High Priest Caiaphas and the Elders.
In Christ Before Caiaphas, great importance is given to the person with raised hand and pointing finger looking significantly at the onlooker; the affronted gesture, isolated among a crowd of helmets and anonymous faces, catches the attention of the viewer. Caiaphas too is depicted in an attitude of wrath and indignation at the words of Jesus: with his hands on his breast he tears his red robes, showing the tunic underneath (this detail is told by Matthew and Mark).
 
     
11 Christ Mocked

 
Outside the room, the cock painted at the top alludes to the second and third denials of Peter.

Gestures are more agitated in the scene above where Christ blindfolded (according to the version in Mark and Luke) and immobile in his dark cloak, is mocked and beaten by the Pharisees.

 
12 Peter Denying Jesus and 13 Christ before Annas

 
The rule of absolute autonomy being given to each single scene is successfully broken in this panel. The two episodes, told by John, occur simultaneously but in different places and the stairs, a material link in space, also connect the time-factor. While Jesus is brought before the High Priest Annas, Peter remains in the courtyard where a servant-girl recognizes him as a friend of the accused: his raised hand indicates the words of denial. The surroundings are full of vivid architectural detail: the doorway with a pointed arch opening onto the room with a porch, the Gothic window of the small balcony, the pilaster strips on the back wall of the upper floor and the coffered ceiling, this time with smaller squares. Peter, whose halo in a curious fashion includes the head and shoulders of the person next to him, is warming his feet at the fire in a highly realistic manner. Lastly, because of her vertical position and arm resting on the handrail, the figure of the serving-maid about to go up the stairs was evidently the cause of much indecision since several "changes of mind" have been discovered around the skirt.  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
17 The Flagellation

 
Considering that the Flagellation is barely mentioned in the gospels, the descriptive details show remarkable inventiveness, aimed at illustrating each moment of the Passion. The figure of Pilate disobeys all the rules of perspective: although obvious from the seat on which he is standing that he is inside the building, he manages to stretch his arm in front of the pillar, in a position parallel to the horizontal level of the floor.Cimabue appears to have been a highly-regarded artist in his day. While he was at work in Florence, Duccio was the major artist, and perhaps his rival, in nearby Siena.
History has long regarded Cimabue as the last of an era that was overshadowed by the Italian Renaissance. In Canto XI of his Purgatorio, Dante laments Cimabue's quick loss of public interest in the face of Giotto's revolution in art:[3]

O vanity of human powers,
how briefly lasts the crowning green of glory,
unless an age of darkness follows!
In painting Cimabue thought he held the field
but now it's Giotto has the cry,
so that the other's fame is dimmed.

 

 

 

Flagellation, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

   

[1] The Biccherna was the name of the building that originally housed the records of the Treasury of Sienna. The biccherne, the painted covers of the state ledgers or administrative balance sheets, provide a fascinating window into the daily life of an Italian city-state and evolving republic at the dawn of modern economic thinking.

The idea of the Virgin protectress of Siena held currency for centuries, finding expression in art of many forms. The union of the classes and the offering of the keys of the city to the Madonna delle Grazie, made perhaps by Andrea di Niccolò in 1483. This board is important also because testifies the original location of the Maestà made by Duccio di Buoninsegna in 1311 in the Cathedral.

Art in Tuscany | Sienese Biccherna Covers | Biccherne Senesi

 
Siena offering of the keys of the city to the
Madonna delle Grazie
   
   

The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture. Painting. Drawing. Könemann. 1995.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.

Andrea Weber, Duccio (Masters of Italian Art Series), Konemann, 1998.

Duccio: The Maesta by Luciano Bellosi, Duccio. Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Duccio Di Buoninsegna: The Documents by Jane Satkowski, Hayden B. J. Maginnis. Georgia Museum of Art, 2000.


 
   


Article giving diagrams of the structure and images of the pieces | www.abcgallery.com

This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia article Maestà (Duccio) published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Duccio di Buoninsegna and Maestà del Duomo di Siena.


Holiday accomodation in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia | Artist and writer's residency


     

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Podere Santa Pia
 
Podere Santa Pia, garden view, December
 
View from terrace with a stunning view over the Maremma and Montecristo
         


Santa Trinita Florence
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Choistro dello Scalzo, Florence
         

Villa Cahen

Villa Cahen has a well-equipped public park while the latter has the state-owned park with Villa Cahen, in Art Nouveau style, and the hidden jewel in the center of the Park. In the marvellous gardens you can find various and rare arboreal and herbaceous species.
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
in Florence
Florence, Duomo