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Maestà with Twenty Angels and Nineteen Saints]]
Born c. 1255-1260
Siena, Italy
Died c. 1318-1319
Siena, Italy
Field Painting
Movement Sienese School
Works Maestà with Twenty Angels and Nineteen Saints (1308-1311)

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1260 – c. 1318-1319) was one of the most influential Italian artists of his time. Born in Siena, Tuscany, he worked mostly with pigment and egg tempera and like most of his contemporaries he painted religious subject matters. He has influenced Simone Martini and the brothers Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti, among others.

His works include the Rucellai Madonna (1285) for Santa Maria Novella (now in the Uffizi) and the fabled Maestà (1308-11), his masterpiece, for Siena's cathedral. The centre of the Maestà depicts the Virgin and Child enthroned and surrounded by angels and saints. He also painted a work known as the Stoclet Madonna, the name stemming from its previous ownership by Stoclet in his collection in Brussels. The Madonna, painted on a wooden panel around the year 1300, was purchased in November 2004 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for an estimated sum of 45 million USD, the most expensive purchase ever by the museum. In 2006 James Beck, a scholar at Columbia University, stated that he believes the painting is a nineteenth century forgery; the Metropolitan Museum's curator of European Paintings has disputed Beck's assertion.[1]

Known surviving works

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew (from the Maestà).
  • Madonna with Child - Tempera and gold on wood, Museo d'arte sacra della Val d'Arbia, Buonconvento, near Siena,
  • Madonna with Child and two Angels (Also known as the Crevole Madonna; c. 1280) - Tempera and gold on wood, Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, Siena
  • Madonna with Child enthroned and six Angels (c. 1285) - Also known as the Rucellai Madonna / Madonna Rucellai - Tempera and gold on wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy (on deposit from Santa Maria Novella)
  • Crucifix - Tempera on wood, Odescalchi Collection, Rome, formerly in the Castello Orsini at Bracciano
  • Crucifix of San Francesco in Grosseto (1289), - Grosseto, Church of San Francesco
  • Madonna of the Franciscans (c. 1300) - Tempera and gold on wood, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • Assumption, Burial and Crowning of the Virgin - Stained glass window, Siena Cathedral
  • Maestà - Tempera and gold on wood - Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland
  • Madonna and Child - Tempera and gold on wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (formerly in the Stoclet Collection, Brussels, Belgium)
  • Madonna with Child and six Angels - Tempera and gold on wood, Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia, Italy
  • Polyptych: Madonna and Child with Saints Augustine, Paul, Peter, Dominic, four angels and Christ blessing (also known as Dossale no. 28; c. 1305) - Tempera and gold on wood, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • Polyptych no. 47: Madonna and Child with Saints Agnes, John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene; ten Patriarchs and Prophets, with Christ blessing - Tempera and gold on wood, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
  • The Surrender of the Castle of Giuncarico - Fresco, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
  • Maestà with Episodes from Christ's Passion - Tempera and gold on wood,- Duomo, Massa Marittima, Italy
  • Small Triptych: Flagellation of Christ; Crucifixion with Angels; Deposition in the Tomb - Tempera and gold on wood, Società di Esecutori di Pie Deposizioni, Siena
  • Small Triptych: Madonna and Child with four Angels, Saints Dominic, Agnes and seven Prophets / Madonna con Bambino e con quattro angeli, i santi Domenico, Agnese, e sette profeti - Tempera and gold on wood - The National Gallery, London, England
  • Portable Altarpiece: Crucifixion with Christ blessing; St Nicholas; St Gregory - Tempera and gold on wood, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
  • Small Triptych: Crucifixion with Angels; Annunciation and Madonna with Child and Angels; Stigmata of St Francis with Madonna and Christ enthroned - Tempera and gold on wood, Royal Collections, Hampton Court, near London, England
  • Maestà (Madonna with Child Enthroned and Twenty Angels and Nineteen Saints) - Tempera and gold on wood, Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, Siena
  • Maestá (The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain) - Tempera and gold on wood - The Frick Collection, New York, USA

External links


Simple English

Duccio di Buoninsegna, (c.1255 - c.1319) was one of the most important painters in Italy in the Late Middle Ages. He worked mainly in the city of Siena in Tuscany but one of his largest works was done for a church in Florence. He is most famous for his altarpieces of the Madonna and Child. Duccio painted in the Byzantine style, similar to Greek icons.


Duccio's life

The first written record of Duccio is dated 1278, when he was painting in Siena. His paintings, of which only a few remain, are all Holy pictures. Two of them are very large and were painted as altarpieces. Some of them are very small and were for a private owner, not for a church.

At that time, many artists did painting that were made specially for people to look at they were praying. The pictures are most often of the Madonna and Child. They often have gold backgrounds which glow when they are lit by candlelight. The figures in the paintings do not look very solid or realistic. They look very still, calm and holy. These paintings had been done in the same style for many hundreds of years, in Greece, Constantinople and many other countries where the Greek Orthodox Church was the main church. The style, which was called the Byzantine style, had also spread to Italy where several Orthodox icons (Holy picture), had become famous and were copied by many artists.

Duccio was one of the greatest painters in the Byzantine style in Italy at the time. He had a famous rival who worked in Florence. His name was Cimabue. One of Cimabue's pupils, Giotto, was to become even more famous, and is remembered as having begun the Renaissance style of painting in Florence. Even though Duccio probably saw Giotto's paintings, in which the figures look solid and three-dimensional, like actors on a stage, Duccio was not very influenced by him.

Duccio had several students who also became famous painters of the 1300s. They include Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers, who were also influenced by Giotto.

The "Rucellai Madonna"

In 1285 Duccio was asked to go to Florence to paint an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child for the church of Santa Maria Novella which had been rebuilt for the Domincan friars. It was a very large church and for it, Duccio painted the biggest ancient altarpiece of this type that is known. It is called the "Rucellai Madonna" because the Rucellai, who were a very rich family, paid for the decoration of the main chapel of the church, where this altarpiece was hung in the 1600s.

Duccio painted the Madonna sitting on a throne with the Christ Child in her lap, raising his hand in blessing. Around them are six kneeling angels in robes of delicate colours. The robe of the Madonna is very dark blue and looks almost black; it is painted with ground-up semi precious stone called lapis lazuli. The robe of the baby looks quite transparent. Duccio was one of the first painters to try to paint transparent material. One of the important parts of Duccio's design is the gold border of the Madonnna's robe, which seems to wander around the painting in a waving line, and frames the Madonna's face in a way that holds the attention of the viewer.

The "Rucellai Madonna" is no longer in the Church of Santa Maria Novella. In 1948 it was moved to the Ufizzi Gallery where it is shown in the same room as Cimabue's "Trinita Madonna" and Giotto's "Ognisanti Madonna".

The "Maestà"

In Duccio's own city there was a large cathedral. In 1308 he was given the job of making an enormous altarpiece of the Madonna on a throne for the cathedral. It was not to be as tall as the "Rucellai Madonna" but was much wider, because it showed two rows of saints and a row of angels on either side of the throne. The four saints the kneel at the front of the picture are those who were particularly remembered in the city of Siena. The altarpiece was to have a very fancy Gothic gold frame with more figures at the top, and small pictures at the bottom, but unfortunately the frame has been destroyed.

Because the painting stood above an altar that was right in the middle of the cathedral, and not against a wall, it was easy for people to walk around to see the back of the altarpiece. So Duccio painted the back as well. The back of the altarpiece had lots of small scenes which tell the life of Jesus. These small scenes, which have gold backgrounds and bright colours in the usual way, are very lively illustrations to the Bible stories.

After three years, the altarpiece was finished. It was carried in a great procession from Duccio's workshop, up the hill to the cathedral which stood on the highest point of the city. It was called the "Maestà" (or "Majesty"). Four other artists were asked to do smaller altarpieces to go in the four chapels that were nearby.

Unfortunately, in the 1700s, people at the cathedral thought that Duccio's altarpiece was old-fashioned. It was taken to pieces, and some of the smaller parts were sold. They can be seen in the National Gallery, London and other places. Luckily most of the pieces were kept together and can now be seen in the Cathedral Museum which is near Siena Cathedral.

Some of the smaller panels from the "Maestà"

Some of Duccio's other works

Other pages


  • John White, Duccio, Thames and Hudson, (1979), ISBN 0500091358
  • Cecilia Jannella, Duccio, Scala/Riverside, Siena (1991), ISBN 1878351184
  • John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, Laurence King Publishing, (2005), ISBN 1856694399


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