Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter IV: Duccio.

Following the chapter on Simone Martini, a brief chapter on Duccio, who is the final artist of Part I in my abridged edition of Vasari's The Lives of the Artists (1550).

The Life of Duccio, Sienese Painter
[c. 1255 - c. 1316]
No doubt those who are the inventors of anything notable attract the greatest attention from historians, and this occurs because new inventions are more closely observed and held in greater amazement, due to the pleasure to be found in the newness of things, than any number of improvements made later by anyone at all in bringing these things to their ultimate state of perfection. For that reason, if no beginning were ever made, the intermediate stages would show no improvement, and the end result would not turn out to be the best and of marvellous beauty.
Duccio, says Vasari, was one who inspired many followers and his 'invention' was "chiaroscuro", which uses light and dark giving a more three-dimensional effect:
... he gave honest shapes to his figures which he executed in a most excellent fashion, given the difficulties of this art.
Vasari then writes of the panel of an altar in the Duomo in Siena, which included scenes from the New Testament, however Vasari was unable to find where it was located (it is now in Siena's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo).

And that is actually that for Duccio - this is such a very brief chapter! But I've been looking at some of his works and loved many of them: here are some of my favourites:

Madonna with Angels (1300-05).
Coronation of the Virgin (1308-11).

Adoration of the Magi (1308-11).
Agony in the Garden (1308-11).
Appearance of Christ to the Apostles (1308-11).
Assumption (1308-11).
Madonna and Child on a Throne (Fragment; 1308-11).
Madonna and Child on a Throne (1308-11).
Madonna of Crevole (1308-11).
The Crucifixion (1310).
The Madonna and Child with Angels (1282 - 1307).
The back panel of The Maestà (1308-11).
The Maestà (1308-11).
Window Showing The Death, Assumption And Coronation Of The Virgin (1287-88).
The next post will be on Jacopo della Quercia.


  1. Lovely details and the black and white 3-dimensional it's really works... I like the hands: they are rather spiritual, kind beyond-hands, as if there was another reality just beyond the visible fact... Well, I guess the paintings as a whole are like that, but sometimes beauty is easier to see on a smaller scale...

    1. That's a nice way of putting it - yes, I see that. I do like the top two - those are my favourites. Out of the artists in Vasari so far though, I do love Giotto the best :)

  2. Curious ...... the paintings look so Eastern Orthodox to me ...... ah ha! I just looked him up on Wikipedia and it is speculated that he travelled to Constantinople because his artwork closely resembles paintings from there, so I wasn't far off. I always get excited when I'm right about something that I know next to nothing about. ;-) LOL! It also says there is more information about him than most Italian painters so it's odd that his biography is so short. In any case, very interesting and I'm happy to have been introduced to a painter with whom I was completely unfamiliar!

    1. Well done, I'm impressed!

      Regarding what you say about how short the bio is: I also read that Duccio is considered to be "the founder of Western art" so yes, I agree, it is odd. I looked up a full and unabridged version on Internet Archive and in that Duccio gets about 4 pages rather that the one and a half I read. Giotto on the other hand got 20 and Cimabue 10, so, yes, still rather short. Funny, that... :)


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