duccio's workshop maestà

An incredible place to discover in the historic centre of Siena

By visiting Siena, the nice town that is a UNESCO heritage site, there are many places plenty of history that can be admired in the historic centre, there is a place that has a particular significance within the history of Sienese art.

The Duccio’s workshop where the Maestà was painted

How many times have we been fascinated by the history of artists and by the places where they created their works of art? Unfortunately, in most cases we do not keep track of the places that saw the creation of the masterpieces. What we can say about Siena is instead that the has been preserved the workshop where the local artist Duccio di Buoninsegna painted one of his greatest works: the Maestà. The Duccio’s workshop is still visible in Siena – in Via Stalloreggi – and it was where the Maestà was painted. It represents the Virgin Mary enthroned and surrounded by angels and saints.

duccio's workshop maestà

The plaque on the ancient Duccio’s workshop

The painting of a great altarpiece

The great altarpiece, «the largest painted table of the Italian school we received» (cit. Torriti), was commissioned to the artist on 9 October 1308. Completed in 1311, the work came out of the artist’s house on 9 June of the same year, and solemnly carried in procession to the Cathedral, with the presence of the city authorities and the Sienese people.

The table was placed on the main altar of the Cathedral and remained there until 1505, when it was moved to the altar of San Sebastiano (still in the Cathedral).

In 1771 it was unfortunately dismembered and divided into several parts, in order to separate the part painted on the façade from the one painted on the back: Duccio’s masterpiece was, in fact, a painted altarpiece on both sides.

 

The Duccio’s signature on the Maestà he painted

The artist signed the work on the basis of the throne with an inscription which is also a beautiful dedication to the Virgin:

MATER SANCTA DEI / SIS CAUSE SENIS REQUIEI – SIS DUCIO VITA TE QUIA / PINXIT ITA

The workshop where Duccio painted the altarpiece is in this day indicated by a plaque that remembers that in that house the Maestà was painted. An anecdote tells that it was necessary to come up a particular system to bring the large painting out from Duccio’s workshop which, once the Maestà finished to be painted, was much higher than the door. 

The Duccio’s signature on the step of the Maestà throne

The phrase has a very deep and endearing meaning. It was written in latin and the artist put it at the end of the Maesta’s painting. What is the meaning of the inscription, as well as the story of this grandiose painting, can be uncovered by a guided tour of Siena. The ancient Duccio’s workshop stays few steps far from the Cathedral of Siena, the church where the altarpiece by Duccio was destined.