The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, 1308-1311

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The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, 1308-1311

Dimensions :
painted surface (left side image): 43 – 16 cm (16 15/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
painted surface (center image): 43 – 43.9 cm (16 15/16 x 17 5/16 in.)
painted surface (right side image): 43 – 16 cm (16 15/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
overall (including original frame): 48 x 86.8 x 7.9 cm (18 7/8 x 34 3/16 x 3 1/8 in.)

Artist : Duccio di Buoninsegna (painter) Sienese, c. 1250/1255 – 1318/1319

Overview : This panel is one of two owned by the National Gallery of Art from one of the most important monuments of Western painting: the towering, two-sided altarpiece known as the Maest by Duccio di Buoninsegna (Sienese, c. 1250/1255 – 1318/1319). The Maesta dominated the main altar in Siena’s cathedral for nearly two centuries. The National Gallery of Art is the only institution in the United States to own two panels from this masterpiece.The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew is the second panel from the Maesta in the Gallery’s collection.

Standing on either side of this Nativity are two Hebrew prophets, whose writings quoted on the scrolls they hold are thought by Christians to foretell Jesus’s birth. The Gallery’s Nativity joined other scenes from Jesus’s childhood (and other prophets) that unfolded along the front horizontal base of the altarpiece called the “predella” below a monumental image of the Madonna and Child in majesty, enthroned in a crowd of saints and angels (see Reconstruction). The Virgin was Siena’s patron saint, and devotion to her had a strong civic as well as religious dimension. Before it was installed in June 1311, Duccio’s altarpiece was paraded triumphantly through the streets. Musicians were hired to accompany it, along with all the priests and monks of Siena. A procession of city officials and citizens was followed by women and children ringing bells. Shops were closed all day and alms were given to the poor.

The visibility and authority of the Maesta, along with Duccio’s importance as a teacher, help explain Siena’s sustained taste for the gold and abstraction of the Byzantine style even as artists elsewhere in Tuscany adopted a more naturalistic approach. This Nativity blends Byzantine elements with more contemporary and local trends. The Virgin’s recumbent pose and out-of-scale size recall icons of the Nativity, and like many icon painters Duccio has included two midwives who wash and tend the new infant and confirm his virgin birth. The cave setting also comes via the Greek East, but the manger roof is similar to ones found in the Gothic art of northern Europe. While the effect of gold and brilliant color is highly decorative, Duccio’s elegant lines and flowing brushstrokes soften the austerity of the Byzantine style.

Completed in less than three years, the Maesta was a huge undertaking, for which Duccio received 3,000 gold florins more than any artist had ever commanded. Although he must have had substantial help from his pupils and workshop assistants, the design and execution indicates that Duccio exercised control over the whole project. Moved to a side altar in 1506, the altarpiece was sawn apart in the 1770s and individual panels subsequently dispersed. This makes it impossible to determine its dimensions with certainty, but it must have been about 15 feet wide, with the gables rising to as much as 17 feet high. In all, there were probably more than 70 individual scenes.

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The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel

The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, 1308-1311

Rp 4.350.000

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