Duccio’s Maesta

Duccio Maesta
Duccio’s Maesta altar (front), tempera on panel, 1308-11, Sienese proto-Renaissance style

During the 13th Century, the city states of Siena and Florence were arch rivals. Siena won the war with Florence and believed they won because of the Virgin Marry’s grace. Siena commissioned their most famous artist, Duccio to create a painting dedicated to the Virgin Marry. Furthermore, the work is created to showcase to other city states of their dedication to arts and god. The altarpiece is large and covered in gold which stood right on the Siena’s Cathedral altar under the dome. This very large altar is composed by many paintings on both sided of the panel. The front panel has a large center piece painting of the Virgin Marry holding baby Christ surrounded by many saints and angels. She is garnished and painted with lapis blue pigment; very rare and expensive at the time to showcase the importance of the Virgin Marry as the linked figure between god and humans beings. The surrounding saints and angels are decorated in gold and highly textured as a distinctive style of Duccio. Also, the front altarpiece had small rows of paintings at the bottomof the center piece and small painted gothic style arches panels above the center piece. The front panel is many of the events showcasing the life the Virgin Marry.

The back panel showcases important events in the gospel. Many paintings look out of proportion, however due to Duccio style and techniques make the painting unique with strong textures. The figures are much more lifelike than the Byzantine style that Italians adapted from. An example can be shown by Duccio’s works along with other uprising artist to come. The Italians shifted its painting to be more texturized, in contrast with blank patterns of the Byzantine style. In result, faces are more soft, postures more delicate, and depth is added to paintings.

Simone Martini carried Duccio’s legacy with still the distinctive textures and the use of gold gothic style altarpieces such as the Annunciation (1330)

However other artists felt their spiritual connection between god by shifting of art style and story of the Virgin Marry to be more down to earth such as the Lorenzetti brothers. Birth of the Virgin (1342) by Pietro Lorenzetti and Good Government in the City (1338-40) by Ambrosia Lorenzetti still maintains large paintings with the new texturized Italian style.

Duccio Maesta altar
Duccio Maesta altar (rear), tempera on panel, 1308-11, Sienese proto-Renaissance style