Friday, July 4, 2014

Duccio di Buoninsegna

Tempera and gold on wood
213 × 396 cm
Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena, Italy

And on that day when it was brought into the cathedral, all workshops remained closed, and the bishop commanded a great host of devoted priests and monks to file past in solemn procession. This was accompanied by all the high officers of the Commune and by all the people; all honorable citizens of Siena surrounded said panel with candles held in their hands, and women and children followed humbly behind. They accompanied the panel amidst the glorious pealing of bells after a solemn procession on the Piazza del Campo (the principal public space of the center of Siena) into the very cathedral; and all this out of reverence for the costly panel…  (One person who witnessed this event wrote)

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319), born and active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, was one of the most influential Italian artists in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. He worked mostly with pigment and egg tempera and like most of his contemporaries he painted religious subject matters. He became famous in his own lifetime, and in the 1300s, he became one of the most favored and radical painters in Siena.

Duccio stands in relation to the Sienese School as Giotto does to the Florentine; yet without the powerful naturalism that makes the art of Giotto so revolutionary. Rather, Duccio sums up the grave and austere beauty of centuries of Byzantine tradition and infuses it with a breath of the new humanity which was being spread by the new Orders of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic.