Siena, active by 1278 – 1318
Duccio is the key figure of Sienese painting and together with Giotto one of the great innovators of Italian art. Segna di Bonaventura, Ugolino di Nerio, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti all probably spent time in his workshop and it is to Duccio that Sienese painting owes its particular character: a refined sense of color combined with an emphasis on a delicately calibrated expressivity. Duccio remained more attached to Byzantine models than Florentine artists, but he was also open to the influence of French ivories—highly prized at the time. His early work shows close affinities with that of Cimabue, but in his exploration of space he left the Florentine far behind. Whereas Giotto's space is always rigorously rational and serves to underscore the figurative content, Duccio's has a more emotional character and is sometimes audaciously expansive (see, for example, the Temptation of Christ in the Frick Collection, New York). Such was his reputation that he received one of the most important commissions in late thirteenth-century Florence: the so-called Rucellai Madonna (an enormous panel of the Madonna and Child enthroned now in the Uffizi, Florence). His double-sided altarpiece for the cathedral of Siena—the Maestà—is a landmark in the history of western art and includes on the reverse side numerous narrative scenes of the life of Christ of inexhaustible inventiveness.