mona lisa smileLove reading analysis of famous paintings? Discover more about 250 of the best paintings in the history of art with the Famous Paintings ebook.  It names names (and titles, art museums, and dates), with links to in-depth commentary about the works.  Explore must-see masterpieces in US and European art museums! 

Download 250 Paintings ebook

It'll make you smile. 

Join this Blog - (we'd love your thoughts, too!)

Your email:

Feeling Lucky?

famous paintings cards

 

 

 

 

 

Good - because we're feeling generous. Join this blog and earn a chance to win a FREE set of these art history cards (a $75 value). 

Enter Me to Win!

Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Botticelli Primavera

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings 

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

Ghent Altarpiece via zoom

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums - ebooks

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces.

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Other

Art History Blogs

ArtDaily: daily breaking news about art museums and art history.

Art Blog by Bob: this brilliant art history blogger of Picture This on Big Think.

Art History Resources. Unwieldly but informative.

Marisol Roman.  A Spanish art history blog.

Mother of all Art & Art History Links: extensive list of online art history resources (including images, research resources, and art history depts.)

smARThistory. Think online art history textbook.  Brilliant. 

Art History Beyond Europe

Follow Us

Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

Did we mention it's free?

Famous Paintings Reviewed

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Famous Paintings: Duccio's Maesta

  
  
  

An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Although Italy imported Byzantine influences from port cities of Venice and Ravenna, that impact was hugely amplified in 1204 with the capture of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the center of the Eastern Christian Church.  The brief
duccio maesta virgin detail2 resized 600tenure in Constantinople of the so-called Latin Empire ushered in an influx of Byzantine art and artists into Italy, radically shaping the development of Italian Gothic art.  

Duccio Maesta.  Detail from front panel.

In the 14th century the two most influential city-states were Florence and Siena, which competed culturally, economically and militarily.  

Unsurprisingly, a school of Italian Gothic painting developed in each city; while Giotto di Bondone, known as Giotto (c. 1267-1337), dominated in Florence, in Siena the most famous painter was Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255 - before 1319), known as Duccio.

Concurrently, rural monasteries were being superseded by urban cathedrals to more readily served the burgeoning populations of bankers and merchants.   This "age of

duccio maesta virgin

cathedrals", from roughly 1150 to 1400, consisted of building cathedrals (and re-building those destroyed by fire).

What better way to flaunt newly acquired power, influence and wealth (and of course, to show one's piety) than to commission altarpieces? They were sought not only for the new

Duccio Maesta.  Detail from front panel.

cathedrals but also for private chapels and secondary altars.

An altarpiece is simply a devotional painting in tempera (powdered pigments typically mixed with egg yolk, water and glue) on wood panel.  From the 13th century onward, altarpieces became increasingly elaborate -- and none more so than Maesta (majesty) by Duccio.

The republic of Siena was ruled by elders called the Nine (Nova), who believed the Virgin Mary had favored their 1260 victory over the Florentines in the battle of Monteperti.  Siena chose the Virgin Mary as its patron saint and protectoress of its city, and the Nine choose her for the altarpiece theme in its new cathedral completed in 1260.

Duccio and his assistants began work on this pretigious commission for the high altar in 1308, painting it on both sides because the main altar was in the center of the sanctuary.

Maesta was finished in 1311 amidst city-wide processions and celebrations.  As originally created, Maesta had a seven foot high central panel (Virgin and Child in Majesty or Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints) surmounted by 7 pinnacles above and a predella of panels (smaller narrative scenes pertaining to the main one) at the base.  

Maesta remained on the main altar until 1506, when it was moved to the transept.  In 1771 the Duccio masterpiece was sawed into pieces to enhance its saleability. Several of the initial 50 panels in Maesta have been lost, while some are in art museums. The remaining altarpiece is now secure in a Sienese museum.

The main panel depicts the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven surrounded by angels and saints, including four other patron saints of Siena kneeling in the foreground. She dominates the panel, swathed in the deep blue reserved for her by artistic tradition, and sits in a duccio maesta

Duccio, Maesta.  Tempera and gold on panel, 1308-1311.  7' x 13' by 6 1/4".  From Siena Cathedral.  Museo dell'Opera del Duoma, Siena, Italy.

throne opened up as if to welcome viewers. The crowd surrounding her includes two apostles, John the Evangelist and Peter, while the ten other apostles are nestled into the arches above the Virgin.

The lower pinnacles (above the apostles) feature scenes of the Virgin's last earthly days, with Annunciation of the Death of the Virgin on the left and the Burial of the Virgin on the right.  The bottom predella panels depict Christ's earlier life, starting on the left with Annunciation and concluding with Christ among the Doctors on the far right.  

This main panel exemplifies how Duccio melded Gothic and Byzantine elements.  He combined Byzantine tradition - a formal and symmetrical composition; standardized figures and facial types of many of the angels and saints; flat shapes - with hints of Gothic influence.  
The four kneeling saints have individualized faces; figures are not all fully frontal; the typical hard body outlines are softened; and the saints seem to be conversing with eye contact.  Further, the drapery falls naturally, hinting at three dimensions underneath.

Maesta is the only signed Duccio artwork.  Note his signature wrapping around the base of the throne, which translates as,

Holy Mother of God, be the cause of peace to Siena, and of life to Duccio because he has painted you thus. 

duccio maesta betrayal resized 600On the back of the Maesta altarpiece, Duccio experimented with naturalism and humanization of religious subject matter. He depicted Christ's later life - his ministry (on the predella); his Passion on the main panel in 26 scenes; and his Resurrection and meeting with his apostles (on the pinnacles).

In the panel Betrayal of Jesus, Duccio collapses time and concurrently depicts three events within a traditional background:
  • Christ's betrayal by Judas' kiss;
  • the hasty exit by his disciples on the right; and
  • at the left, Peter removing the ear of a high priest's servant. 

Observe the graceful draping of the men's robes, and the convincing mass of the men in them.  Duccio allows the figures to react with discernible emotion - there is fear in the eyes of the fleeing disciples; anger on Peter's face and hatred on Judas'.  Of all Duccio's famous paintings, Maesta most strongly altered art history. 

 

 

 

 

 





Comments

I think The Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth has a predella of the Maesta, "Jesus Raising Lazarus From the Dead," in their permanent collection. Also, I think The Frick may have a piece of the altar. I wonder where else pieces of the altar are to be found?
Posted @ Sunday, December 16, 2012 10:35 AM by Mark Lombard
Interesting to compare Duccio's Christ's Betrayal by Judas' Kiss with Giotto's from the Arena Chapel. Giotto offers the moment before the 'Kiss' placing more importance on the anticipation.
Posted @ Monday, December 17, 2012 12:03 PM by Diane
Diane, 
 
I'm unable to post photos in this "Comments" section to demonstrate what you mean, but one can google "Giotto Betrayal of Christ" to see this intense and dramatic scene.  
 
I find Giotto's treatment more powerful due to the eye contact between Christ and Judas. Thanks for pointing of his treatment of this same theme. 
 
Susan
Posted @ Monday, December 17, 2012 2:23 PM by Susan Benford
Mark, 
 
You inspired me to poke around (also known as "google") to see which art museums own some of these Maesta panels. 
 
Turns out that a number of US art museums have Maesta panels - the Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, and Frick Collection, in addition to the Kimbell. 
 
What I haven't been able to determine is what motivated the Siena chapel to saw up Maesta. The only conceivable explanation is dire financial straits, but I haven't unearthed proof. 
 
Any ideas? 
 
Thanks for the inspiration! 
 
Susan
Posted @ Monday, December 17, 2012 2:33 PM by Susan Benford
It's sad that the other pieces of the Duccio Maesta is now lost. It would be great if all pieces of this masterpiece would be gathered together but I think that's now impossible.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 15, 2013 12:40 AM by dog artist
Post Comment
Name
 *
Email
 *
Website (optional)
Comment
 *

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics