Magesta of Siena, Duccio

Magesta of Siena, Duccio
Magesta of Siena, Duccio

The Magestá of Siena Cathedral also known as La Pala di Duccio is one of the most outstanding works of the Italian painter Duccio di Bouninsegna. The piece represents one of the key works of the Italian trecento and, if in general the most stagnant forms of traditional painting can still be appreciated, the author will gradually incorporate innovation until becoming one of the first examples of the painting of the trecento in the school of Siena.


Duccio di Bouninsegna (1260 – 1318/1319) was one of the most prominent artists of the 14th century. Actually there are not many facts that we know about the life of the artist but it seems that he spent almost his entire life in Siena where he developed his artistic activity in the field of painting.

The Magestá of the Cathedral of Siena was a reality between 1308 and 1311. It is a large piece – it is more than four meters wide and almost two and a half meters high- and is made in oil on table. From the artist's workshop it was taken in procession to the main chapel of the cathedral where he acted as the main altar until the beginning of the 16th century. Originally, the piece was decorated on the front and back -something unusual in this type of work- but at the end of the 17th century, around 1795, both parts were separated and some of the panels were lost.

The panels on the obverse, those dedicated to the Virgin, arethe best known and most prominent. Mary appears seated on a throne; she is the center of the composition and she appears seated carrying the Child Jesus in her arms. The representation of the Virgin as theotokopos -throne of Jesus Christ- is an ancient representation, a typical Romanesque theme that dates back to the beginnings of primitive Byzantine painting.On this occasion the artist has represented the Virgin, not only as a support for her son but as an authentic mother; María gives her son a real gesture of affection by bringing her head closer to that of her son, an overgrown boy whose muscles appear strongly marked and who is dressed in a purity cloth. The throne of the Virgin is configured through various architectures, at the base appears a carved inscription that refers to the author of the piece and its consecration to the city; while in the background it continues to be treated with the typical gold on which the figures are cut out. Around the protagonists there is a large kneeling court made up of angels and saints. In the predella the artist has shown greater artistic freedom than in the rest of the altarpiece.

On the back of the panel Duccio has chosen to depict scenes from the Passion of Jesus Christ; the panel is divided into three streets, of which the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem has been represented on the central panel and is finished off with a crucifixion.

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