Philippe de Montebello (Director Emeritus) and Keith Christiansen (Department of European Paintings) discuss Madonna and Child (2004.442) (July 2008).
Madonna and Child, ca. 1300
Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian, Sienese, active ca. 1278–d. 1318)
Tempera and gold on wood, with original engaged frame; Overall, with frame, 11 x 8 1/4 in. (27.9 x 21 cm); painted surface 9 3/8 x 6 1/2 in. (23.8 x 16.5 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund, Walter and Leonore Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Gift, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Annette de la Renta Gift, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, Louis V. Bell, and Dodge Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, several members of The Chairman's Council Gifts, Elaine L. Rosenberg and Stephenson Family Foundation Gifts, 2003 Benefit Fund, and other gifts and funds from various donors, 2004 (2004.442)
This exquisite picture defines a transforming moment in Western art. Departing from the Byzantine notion of painting as a symbolic image of a divine being, Duccio, the founder of Sienese painting, endowed his figures with a new humanity, exploring the psychological relationship between Mother and Child. Unquestionably, the master had looked closely at the work of his younger contemporary Giotto. The parapet, a pictorial device that relates the fictive space of the picture to the real space of the viewer, will become a common feature of Renaissance painting; here, it is a novelty.
Few of Duccio's paintings survive: this panel was the last known work in a private collection and its acquisition transforms the Museum's presentation of the history of European painting. The damage along the bottom of the original frame is from candles lit before the picture, which was used for private devotion.