Key to Umbria

Duccio: Maestà (1308-11)

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

The Sienese Duccio di Buoninsegna was one of the most influential Italian artists of his time.  His works include:

  1. the Rucellai Madonna (1285) for Santa Maria Novella, Florence. which is now in the Uffizi Gallery; and

  2. the double-sided Maestà (1308–11) for the Duomo, Siena, the front side of which is illustrated above.


Madonna and Child (early 14th century)

The earliest secure reference to this important panel dates to the 19th century, when it was in the Convento di San Domenico, near the door leading to the sacristy of the church.  It was probably commissioned for the high altar of the new church of San Domenico, which was begun in 1304.  However, the construction of the new church turned out to be a protracted business, and the altarpiece must have been housed, at least for a time, in one of the other churches at the convent, either San Stefano del Castellare or San Domenico Vecchio.  It was moved to the Galleria Nazionale in 1863.  Bernard Berenson attributed it to Duccio Buoninsegna in 1897, and this attribution has never subsequently been questioned. 

A recent restoration has revealed that it was originally the central panel of a polyptych: this would have been one of the first polyptychs in Umbria.  The commission was broadly contemporary with that of Duccio's polyptych for the Dominicans of Siena (the so-called Polyptych 28 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena - ca. 1306).  In the Perugian panel, the Madonna points to the hands and feet of the Child, prefiguring His Crucifixion, while six praying angels look down from spandrels above the fictive semicircular frame.  The naturalistic representation of the figures is closely related to that in Duccio’s famous Maestà (1308-11) from the Duomo, Siena.  

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Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255 - 1319) 

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Duccio di Buoninsegna in: Perugia