from the life of the Virgin (she is Siena’s patroness). Small panels on the reverse side of the predella depicted
scenes from the life of Christ. The altarpiece (which was sawn apart in later years) would have measured
over eight feet tall and nearly fourteen feet across. Duccio’s style was clearly learned from Byzantine
masters. He used a traditional Byzantine pose (with the Virgin’s head tilted toward her child) and the
conventional Byzantine way of constructing her face: it is egg-shaped with slanting eyes and a small mouth,
and its long nose forms a continuous line with the eyebrows (compare with the Byzantine piece, The Old
Testament Trinity. Duccio softened his figures’ forms, however, creating rounder bodies and flowing folds
of cloth.
Duccio, Maestà, 1311. This view shows a reconstruction of the front of the altarpiece
with predella and pinnacles.
This altarpiece is done in tempera. Tempera painting is done on wood panels that are carefully prepared
with a layer of gesso, polished to be as smooth as glass. The pigment is mixed with egg yolk, which dries
rather quickly. The finished painting shows rich, but rather opaque colors, and the surface has a soft sheen.
However, because tempera dries quickly it has to be applied with thin parallel strokes. Tempera painting is
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