Christ Appears to Apostles Behind Closed Doors (1308-1311) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca.1255-pre1319)
The commanding presence of Christ, portrayed standing at the centre of this scene, calls out to the viewer. Duccio, the great Sienese master and contemporary of the Florentine Giotto painted this panel as part of an extraordinary multi-panelled altarpiece, which originally decorated the high altar of Siena cathedral. The unusual double-sided altarpiece featured scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin. The panel once formed part of the narrative of Christ’s life inserted into the rear facing scenes portraying episodes from Christ’s Ministry, Passion and Resurrection. Today the Maestà, as the re-constituted masterpiece as known now resides in the museum of the Duomo (cathedral). Duccio reveals the profound influence of Byzantine artistic tradition in his art. Symmetry plays a vital role in creating a harmonious yet paradoxically dramatically expressive drama. We note how architecture reinforces the divine authority of Christ’s appearance amongst his followers. The apostles huddle together their timid, cramped gestures and anxious expressions convey amazement and fear. Christ, meanwhile stands apart from the men on either side of him. Colour, as in all of Duccio’s oeuvre recalls the influence of Byzantine artistic tradition. The apostles typically appear in colours of a cooler tonality. With the exception of St Peter’s lime green cloak at Christ’s right, the other apostles appear in more subdued colours. Against the more decorative palette of the apostles’ robes Christ’s illuminating presence evokes His dual nature. Duccio inherits from Byzantine convention the visual motif of gold as a symbol of the divine realm. Following this centuries’ old tradition, the artist employs gold-leaf finely applied in a pattern of abstract striations over the surface of Christ’s tunic and mantle. The original viewers of Duccio’s majestic altarpiece, must surely have looked at this master’s profoundly compelling narrative of Christ’s redemptive ministry with admiration and gratitude. No other artist of his time rivalled Duccio’s sublime gift for translating the mystery of God’s promise into a visual language accessible to all humanity.
Art Guide Resource
Order your Columban Art Calendar
SHOP ONLINE: Buy now
Phone: (03) 9375 9475
Fax: (03) 9379 6040
Postal Address: PO Box 752 Niddrie Victoria 3042 Australia