DUCCIO di Buoninsegna
(b. ca. 1255, Siena, d. 1319, Siena)

Maestà (Madonna with Angels and Saints)

Tempera on wood, 214 x 412 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

The Madonna appears on the panel as the Queen of the Heaven and Siena. In the foreground the four patron saints of Siena are kneeling: Sts Ansanus, Savinus, Crescentius and Victor. The Latin inscription on the base of the throne contains the name of the painter.

The movements of the heavenly court are articulated with subtle symmetry: the characters surrounding the Virgin are divided into two ranks by the throne, which is the central axis of the entire composition. The mirror-like correspondence of the two sides is broken up by tiny details (the gestures of the saints or the glance of an angel).

Next to the angels, from left to right, are saints Catherine of Alexandria, Paul, John the Evangelist (left side), John the Baptist, Peter, and Agnes (right side), recognizable by their symbols and names painted on the lower edge (the inscriptions are missing only for Paul and Peter). On the bottom row are the four patron saints, also identifiable by their names: Ansano, baptizer of the Sienese and decapitated in the Val d'Arbia in the fourth century; Savino, a martyred bishop (left side); Crescenzio, a boy martyred under Diocletian, whose remains were transferred to the Cathedral in 1058; Victor, a Christian soldier, native of Syria, proclaimed patron after 1288 (right side).

Above, in little arches whose frames have been lost, are the apostles distinguished by their abbreviated names against the gold background. Again from left, they are, Thaddeus, Simon, Philip, James the Great, Andrew (left side), Matthew, James the Less, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthias (right side). The use of gold as a precious complement to the glorification of Mary is essential. The background, the haloes, the garments of the Child, of Catherine, Savino, and Agnes, the cloth covering the back of the throne and the Cosmatesque inlays of the latter, all dazzle the onlooker with their splendid glitter. The fabric of the garments and the backcloth axe embroidered with a continuous small golden pattern which gives the effect of real material. Little space is left for the use of other colours.