Saturday, February 10, 2018

Duccio and His Masterpiece of Humanism

One of the great masterpieces of western Art and, at the time of its purchase, quietly through Christie’s in London in November, 2004, the most expensive work of Art ever purchased by the Met (circa 50 million USD), this small, intimate painting by Duccio is a marvel.

The modernity of this work, astonishing for a painting crafted in the year 1300 C.E, even as it retains its Byzantine iconography in the rendering of the Madonna's head and herelongated fingers, is stunning. 

The Madonna's beautiful, ovalic face and almond-shaped eyes, the delicacy of Her veil, the way the infant Jesus, here already almost adult-like, touches it, his right hand hidden behind its folds, the Madonna's fingers folding the bottom of His robe, Her realistic gaze towards Him, the ineffable modeling of their visages, create an immediacy, a vitality, to a work of Art that is over 700 hundred years old.

In one bold move, Duccio takes us from devotion and veneration, Byzantine and Gothic 

artistic motifs, squarely into the Dantesque realm of Humanism, into the psychological dimension between Madonna and Christ, between mother and child, between love and human touch.

The last three times that I stood in front of this masterpiece, in one of the early Renaissance rooms at the top of the stairs on the left, I was the only person in the room (everyone else must have been looking at the van Goghs and the Monets). 

It was just me, Duccio and eternity.

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