Duccio di Buoninsegna was an Italian painter. He was active during the Gothic period. He was one of the foremost artists of the Sienese School of painting. Duccio was also one of the leading artists of the Trecento, the 14th century Italian culture period.
Duccio di Buoninsegna, known popularly as Duccio, was born circa 1255. Little is possible to pinpoint about Duccio’s life, especially in his early life. Although still a matter of debate, scholars were able to limit the field at least. Some think that he was Cimabue’s pupil, while others believe he traveled to Constantinople and learned directly from Byzantine masters.
Not much is known about Duccio’s career before 1728 when he was about 23 years old. That year he painted twelve account bookcases. Only a few of his artworks survived, approximately 13, although he was very productive, being active about between 1268 to 1311.
Of his surviving paintings, only two can be dated definitively, both major public commissions. One of them is the Rucellai Madonna, commissioned by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine in 1285, for a chapel in Santa Maria Novella. The other was Maesta, commissioned in 1308 for the high altar of Siena Cathedral, would complete it in 1311.
Duccio’s best-known artworks were made in egg tempera over a wood panel and embellished with gold leaves. Differently from artists before him as well as his contemporaries that would paint mainly in oil, Duccio became a master of tempera, conquering the medium with keen precision and delicacy.
Duccio’s artwork carried significant similarities to Byzantine art, especially regarding its familiar religious scenes and gold background. However, Duccio had his own experimental and different styles. He would soften the sharp lines of Byzantine art.
Also, Duccio was one of the earliest painters to lay out his figures inside architectural compositions, as well as to study and explore further space and depth in his creations.
The artist also paid keen attention to depict emotions in a way that was rare at the time. Now, Christ and the Virgin was more than two symbols put together; they became mother and child, the artist was able to suggest deep interactions between the characters. Duccio also masterfully created figures that inspired heavenly gracefulness, utilizing vibrant and beautiful colors.