(b. ca. 1280, Siena, d. 1348, Siena)

The Birth of Mary

Tempera on wood, 188 x 183 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

This altarpiece was painted for the chapel in the Siena Cathedral dedicated to St Sabinus, one of the four patron saints of Siena. Formally a triptych, in fact it is a single scene. In the centre is St Anne in a position similar to an Etruscan sarcophagus. The composition is Byzantine but the painting as a whole is Italian showing the influence of Giotto.

The framework structure of the panel shows the walls and supporting uprights of a house with the front wall removed. The rooms are shown in convincing perspective, with the anteroom on the left giving access to a tall, Gothic inner courtyard. In the main room St Anne, who has just given birth, is lying in bed while maidservants wash the newborn Mary. The child's aged father Joachim is receiving the happy news from a boy in the anteroom.

It is signed and dated, the inscription on the frame below the central panel is: PETRUS LAURENTII DE SENIS ME PINXIT MCCCXLII.