(b. ca. 1290, Siena, d. 1348, Siena)
Tempera on wood, 49 x 33 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
One of the high points of small-scale Sienese painting is the so-called Small Maestà by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Though small, it is breathtakingly beautiful. First of all there is the dazzling gold setting off the Madonna's outline, with angels emerging from it. Then there is the quality of colour. Rarely in early Italian art does one find such as intense red, and in almost no other work has the costly lapis lazuli of the blue been so well preserved. Each part of the scene demands individual attention: the extremely delicate ornamentation and draughtsmanship of the draperies, the saints' faces, and the magnificent display of colour of the flowers in the golden vase in the foreground.
Of all the features of this unique painting, one does not at first notice its spatial organization. The radiance tends to mask the structure of the composition, yet this is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the work. Here Ambrogio has resolved an artistic challenge that he also set himself in a large Maestà at Massa Marittima. The Small Maestà can be considered as an improved version of the Maestà at Massa Marittima.
In the centre of the painting the Madonna is enthroned with the Christ Child, six angels flanking the throne at the back. On the left St Elizabeth of Hungary, on the right St Catherine of Alexandria; kneeling on the left St Nicholas (?), in the left foreground Pope Clement I; on the right St Martin (?), in the right foreground Pope Gregory I can be seen.