Created on October 16, 2023
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Duccio di Buoninsegna was an Italian artist who was prominent during the early fourteenth century. He is very well known for combining the Byzantine style with elements that were more naturalistic. The byzantine style of artwork was extremely prominent during the middle ages, and was almost solely focused on religion. For the most part, Byzantine art displayed whatever object it was depicting, whether that be a person or a setting as almost other-worldy, or “higher than thou.” What Duccio did was take these religious scenes that byzantine art would highly decorate, and make them look significantly more human. Duccio primarily used egg tempera in his artwork. The Raising of Lazarus, which I have chosen for the assignment, was a part of the famous Maesta altarpiece that was commissioned for the Siena Cathedral in 1308; Duccio completed it in 1311. It is thought that The Raising of Lazarus was the last image on the back predella. It depicts the moment Christ resurrects Lazarus after being dead for four days, ultimately “proving” Christ’s divinity. On the theme of Duccio’s incorporating an element of realism to Byzantine style, in this scene he depicts a “divine” religious event, but even so it presents itself as very earthly and human. Christ is depicted as being the same size as everyone else in the painting; he is standing on the ground with everyone else in the painting, and is not excessively illuminated. He is even wearing colors very similar to everyone else depicted in the painting. One thing that does set Christ apart in this painting is the rich blue that he is wearing, which was extremely expensive at the time. Duccio also presents Christ with a halo that can be seen around his head. Duccio presents this scene as very realistic looking, as he uses sharper lines, rather than other depictions of Lazarus being back from the dead, which are much more obscure. The faces of the people in painting look very realistic compared to other works of the time. Because of the realism Duccio incorporates in this, we begin to see certain elements of the International Gothic style, which became very popular during the late fourteenth century and early fifteenth century.
Foreshortening: We see foreshortening in The Raising of Lazarus in a couple of different areas. The first usage of foreshortening I noticed is the man at the forefront of the painting wearing a yellow garment. Duccio depicts his arm as being raised out towards the viewer by creating the illusion that the man’s elbow is sticking out. The way Duccio creates the look of shadowing underneath the man’s arm contributes to this. We also see foreshortening on the woman to his right who appears to have her arm outstretched.
Modeling: Modeling can be seen in many instances in this portion of the Maesta. Duccio used contrasting colors and shades to make Lazarus’s coffin look three dimensional. The way he contrasts the shades of the coffin creates the illusion that it is sticking out and Lazarus is physically inside of it. He also angles the people towards the front of the painting to make it seem like they are three dimensional. He does not focus so much on creating the illusion that elements of the background are three dimensional.
Naturalism: As I mention in my summary, Duccio is known for incorporating naturalism with the Byzantine style of art. In The Raising of Lazarus we mostly see this in the people Duccio paints. The detail on their garments makes them very realistic; he uses a great deal of shadowing to create the illusion of creasing, and contrasts the shades of the garments, likely to make them appear worn. He also makes the faces of the people in the painting very real-looking. Unlike many other works of the time, the people’s faces look extremely proportionate.
Tempera Painting: One element of The Raising of Lazarus that identifies it as Tempera paint is the richness of the colors. We also see a certain sharpness of the lines around the mountains.
Atmospheric Perspective: One thing Duccio does not do a great job of is atmospheric perspective. The mountains and trees that are supposed to be in the background of the scene do not necessarily look like they are behind the crowd, or any smaller than the crowd.