DUCCIO di Buoninsegna
(b. ca. 1255, Siena, d. 1319, Siena)
Stories of the Passion (Maestà, verso)1308-11
Tempera on wood, 212 x 425 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena
It is interesting to note the different function of the scenes represented on the two sides of the Maestà. The front side was a devotional image destined for the community of the faithful (which explains its size, clearly visible from every corner of the church), while the back was essentially a narrative cycle intended for the closer observation of the clergy in the sanctuary. The main element of the back consisted of fourteen panels, originally separated by little columns or pilasters (of about 4 cm) which were lost, together with the outside frame, in the dismembering of 1771.
Except for the Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion, each panel contains two episodes. The central part of the lower row with the Agony in the Garden and Christ taken Prisoner is twice as wide as the other compartments (but the same as the Crucifixion panel) because the events portrayed are composed of different narrative units.
Numerous contrasting theories have been advanced by critics for the order of interpretation, rendered problematical by the variety of New Testament sources drawn on by Duccio. It is certain that the cycle began at the bottom left and ended at the top right, proceeding from left to right first on the lower row and then on the upper.