If, as is generally accepted, the sire of Western art is the 13th-century Florentine Giotto di Bondone, then surely its “dam” is his contemporary, the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna (active 1278–died 1319). Yet although it is recorded that the church bells rang and the shops were closed and the whole of Siena turned out on that glorious day in June when Duccio's monumental altarpiece was installed in the cathedral, Duccio was soon forgotten. The bells fell silent, the altarpiece was dismantled, and, seven centuries later, many of the panels reside separately in museums around the world; others have been lost or destroyed (JAMA cover, November 8, 2000). Perhaps it was Dante who doomed Duccio to such oblivion when in the Purgatorio he praised Giotto and Giotto's teacher, Cimabue, but failed to mention the Sienese, possibly for no other reason than that Duccio was not a Florentine. But even two and a half centuries later, the indignities continued: in his widely disseminated and vastly popular Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects , the preeminent biographer Giorgio Vasari misattributed at least one of Duccio's other works, the small, freestanding panel we now know as Madonna and Child (cover), to Cimabue. Vasari was, of course, also a Florentine.
Southgate MT. Madonna and Child. JAMA. 2005;294(23):2947. doi:10.1001/jama.294.23.2947
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.