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Definition: Duccio di Buoninsegna from Philip's Encyclopedia

Italian painter, first great artist of the Sienese School. He infused the rigid Byzantine style of figure painting with humanity and lyricism. Notable for dramatic depiction of religious subjects, he is often compared unfavourably with Giotto. Surviving works include Rucellai Madonna (1285) and Maestà altarpiece (1308-11).


Summary Article: Duccio di Buoninsegna (before 1278–1318/19)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian painter. As the first major figure in the Sienese school, his influence on the development of painting was profound. His works include his altarpiece for Siena Cathedral, the Maestà (1308–11, Cathedral Museum, Siena). In this the figure of the Virgin is essentially Byzantine in style, with much gold detail, but depicted with a new warmth and tenderness.

Painted to celebrate a military victory that saved Siena from invasion, the Maestà was carried through the streets in procession from Duccio's studio to the cathedral. Painted on both sides, this huge picture (4.3 m/14.1 ft by 2.1 m/6.9 ft) represents on the one face the Virgin and Child with angels and saints, and on the other 27 episodes from the life of Christ – a series that clearly displays his skill in narrative.

Duccio's art is distinct from that of his contemporaries Cimabue and Giotto in being Byzantine in style. However, it is important to note that his work is related not to the stereotyped icons of Greek monkish painters but to the refined products of the Byzantine revival at the imperial court of Constantinople from the 11th century, as exemplified in exquisite manuscript illuminations of the period. The use of gold in the background and detail, an elegant quality of line, a subtle use of colour for the sake of its harmonies (and not, as with Giotto, an ancillary to form) are characteristic.

The Rucellai Madonna painted for the church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence (1285, Uffizi, Florence), long attributed to Cimabue, is almost certainly his. Other works attributed to him are the Virgin Enthroned with Three Kneeling Franciscans (Pinacoteca, Siena), triptychs in the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace, London, the Virgin and Angels (Perugia, also in Bern), and St John Preaching (Budapest).

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