Maesta altarpiece

(1308-1311; Siena, Museo dell' Opera del Duomo)
   Created by Duccio, then leading painter of the Sienese School, the Maestà Altarpiece was intended for the main altar of the Cathedral of Siena. A freestanding polyptych painted on both sides, the altarpiece was removed from its original site in 1506 and dismantled to make way for a new decorative program. The scenes from the predella and pinnacles were scattered and are now in various museums around the world; some, regrettably, were cut down and two are missing. This has fueled much debate as to the original order of placement of the scenes and the subjects represented in the lost panels. In the central panel is an Enthroned Virgin and Child in majesty (hence the appellation Maestà) surrounded by angels, appropriate to the cathedral of a city whose patroness is the Virgin. Saints Ansanus, Savinus, Crescentius, and Victor, also patrons of Siena, kneel at
   Mary's feet, while an inscription at the foot of her throne reads, "Holy Mother of God, be the cause of Siena, of life to Duccio as he has painted you in this manner." Behind the figures are three-quarter-length representations of prophets holding scrolls. The back of the main panel features the Passion of Christ, while thepredella scenes are from Christ's infancy and the pinnacles from the life of the Virgin. The almond-shaped faces of the figures, the use of black to denote shadows, and the heavy gilding betray the dependence on the Maniera Greca tradition established in the region by Coppo di Marcovaldo and Guido da Siena. In 1311, when the altarpiece was completed, the Sienese citizens carried it from Duccio's workshop to the cathedral in a grand procession led by the bishop and other members of the clergy. Candles were lit around it, bells rung, bagpipes and trumpets played, and prayers carried out in front of it. Siena could now boast of an artist as grand as Giotto, active in the enemy Republic of Florence.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Duccio (di Buoninsegna) — born 13th century, Siena, Republic of Siena died с 1318, Siena? Italian painter. Little is known of his life, but several commission records survive, as well as two documented works, the Rucellai Madonna for the Florentine church of Santa Maria… …   Universalium

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