Giotto and Duccio: Christ Entering Jerusalem

Giotto Christ Entering Jerusalem
Giotto, Christ entering Jerusalem, Arena Chapel, 1305-6, Padua; Florentine proto-renaissance style

Giotto and his shop painted the entire interior of the Arena Capel in worship of Christ and his life. One of his intact works is a depiction the event commemorated by Christians on Palm Sunday. According to all four Gospels, Christ is celebrated in the entry to Jerusalem riding a donkey. Welcomed by the crowd flowing from the city gates, they lay down their cloaks as a path way into the holy city. There have been many depiction of Christ enter Jerusalem, however Giotto’s work is much noted due to how he envision it into the interior of the Chapel. With the brilliant blue yet plain color as a background and his highly detailed treatment on lighter to darker shade of figures, he was one of only few artist at the time that could depict the look of three dimensional in his works; his distractive style at the time. Christ is centered with graceful postures and calm expression. He is riding a donkey that is stepping forward with a graceful trot creates a flow of the picture with a little gap between him and the crowd to show isolation and dignity. To add, the composition of the children climbing the trees to the left contrasts to the symmetrical painting of the city walls and gate.

Located behind of the Maesta Altar, Duccio created a polyptych altarpiece in celebration of Siena’s victory over Florence as a symbol of worship to the Virgin Mary and Christ which Siena believed they won due to the grace of Mary. Created a few years later from Giotto’s mural painting in the Arena Chapel, Duccio created his work on a massive altarpiece at Siena’s Cathedral to show that Siena was also wealthy in the arts and their masters. Like Giotto’s work depicting Christ entering Jerusalem, Duccio painted all of the elements that are mentioned in all of the Gospels. However there are many elements that district between these two great Italian artists at the time. Instead of Christ being at the center of painting, Duccio intentionally placed him slanted to the side looking up towards the crowd filled with details of emotion. This is because he conveys his flow of the painting by the illusion the walls on the top and bottom of Christ that is also slanted towards to gate and crowd. To emphasize on Christ, he painted his rope in brilliant blue and gave a gold halo which at its time is a symbol of importance due to its rarity. Similar to Giotto’s work, Duccio used the trees to balance the the image with the mammoth city of Jerusalem behind. Duccio clearly has more understanding on painting structure and architect than Giotto. The gate and building beyond is almost perfectly symmetrical which is an advance understanding in early 14th century. The goals of these two painter differ, and so does the formal means they use to achieve them. One emphasize on the psychological and detailed use of perspective to portray the event, and the other focuses on the description of the event and understanding of structure.
The Maesta Altarpiece was cut parted in the 18th century and is sold all over the world. Fortunately, Duccio’s Christ Entering Jerusalem is currently located at Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, in the city it was created in.

Duccio Christ Entering Jerusalem
Duccio, Christ Entering Jerusalem, Maesta altar, tempera on panel, 1308-11, Sienese proto-Renaissance style

For further information about the Maesta Altarpiece, please follow this link: Kidd Panther’s Maesta for in depth history and review.

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