SIMONE MARTINI
(b. 1280/85, Siena, d. 1344, Avignon)

Madonna and Child (no. 583)

c. 1308-1310
Tempera on wood, 88 x 57 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

The Madonna and Child, no. 583 in the Siena Pinacoteca, after a variety of attributions is now accepted as the earliest known painting by Simone. It was the central panel of a polypytch (on either side there are holes to fasten the side panels to it) and the attribution is based on stylistic considerations: on the one hand, close ties to Duccio's painting; on the other, typical features of Simone's art.

The Madonna is looking at the spectator: her erect position, the cloak enveloping her body, her sweet but sad eyes, are all elements typical of Duccio's art. But alongside these we find some totally new features: the sculptural quality of the veil around the Virgin's face and the play of light and shadow; the restless movements of the Child, who turns his head towards the Saint to his left (the figure originally depicted on the side panel) and holds onto his mother's hand; his round body, his mouth, his curly hair and the perfect shape of his ear are all given exact volumes and concrete forms.