CIMABUE
(b. ca. 1240, Firenze, d. ca. 1302, Firenze)

The Madonna in Majesty (Maestà)

1285-86
Tempera on panel, 385 x 223 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The picture originally stood on the high altar of Santa Trinità church in Florence. The iconography is frequent in medieval painting and represents the Madonna enthroned with Child and angels, a pattern commonly said Maestà as shows the Virgin as Queen of Paradise. In the lower part are four biblical figures, symbolizing foundations of Christ's kingdom: the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah under lateral arches, Abraham and King David under the chair of the throne.

This Madonna, which is similar in structure to the same artist's Madonna at the Louvre and Duccio's Ruccelai Madonna, still shows the influence of the Byzantine tradition. There is, however, an unprecedented tension in the profiles and in the attempt to create spatial depth, which is rendered by superimposing the figures and in the concave structure at the base of the throne behind the figures of the prophets. The architectural structure of the throne becomes a sort of robust spatial scheme which creates a three-dimensional effect, while the edges of the painting seem to compress and hold in the bodies. There is an intense vitality in the figures and the same dramatic force that characterizes all Cimabue's work.

Restored in 1993