One of Duccio’s highest acclaims is his piece Rucellai Madonna now in the Uffizi Gallery. It was painted in 1285 for the Florentine Church, Santa Maria Novella, and is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as “one of the most illustrious specimens of Italian painting.” Once thought to be the work of the master painter, Cimabue (1240 – 1302), it has now further illuminated Duccio’s name as one of the earliest masters of the period. Cimabue and Duccio are both considered the last great painters of the ancient Byzantine tradition. Though, Duccio became the most influential painter from Siena, while Cimabue rivaled him in Florence.
More still, and before his proper attribution to the Rucellai Madonna, Duccio’s crowning achievement of the time was the high altarpiece in the Cathedral of Siena. The front piece of the panel, Maestá, (Majesty) is a celebrated work that depicts the Virgin and Child enthroned with twenty angels and nineteen saints. The Maestá and the Rucellai share much in common and it is said that the Maestá is a more developed creation of the Rucellai. The Maestá is called a national masterpiece, and during its day the unveiling was treated with much festivity around Siena, a city experiencing great prosperity at the time. The piece is now on display at the Museo dell’Opera della Metropolitana of Siena, or the Museum of the Opera del Duomo. The encompassing work had twenty six scenes from the life of Jesus, with several additional pieces depicting his childhood and the life of the Virgin mother.
Duccio created several pieces of the Virgin and Child and in total there are close to twenty known surviving works from the artist. One of his pieces, though contested by some, the Stoclet Madonna is the most expensive acquisition ever made by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. All his works were religious depictions, painted mostly with pigment in egg tempera.
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