Duccio's Maesta

The angels of the pinnacles

  The 'virtual' reconstruction of the Maesta that I've used shows seven pinnacles at the top of the altarpiece. The central, larger pinnacle is dealt with here. The others featured angels, six at the front and six behind.  This is a somewhat speculative area of the reconstruction, though a medieval document in the Duomo archives mentions 'little angels above' . 
    There are just four possible angels in various collections that might just fit the bill. Here are three of them in colour; the fourth, in black and white, is mentioned in various sources as having been in the privately owned Stoclet Palace, Brussels. Apparently it has now disappeared. Perhaps an oligarch somewhere is gloating over it in a private collection.*  
   
  The direction of the angels' glance might be a clue to their original location, as the would most likely be looking towards the image at the centre. The reconstruction repeats the three existing angels to give an idea of the arrangement. The right-hand version of the Philadelphia angel has been 'flipped' so that its eyes are looking in the appropriate direction.

* A Madonna and child by Duccio from the Stoclet collection was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2004. Some scholars claim it is a nineteenth century forgery. Having paid 45 million dollars for it, unsurprisingly the Metropolitan do not agree.
   


Huis Berg Castle, 's-Heerenberg, Netherlands

 


Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Massachusetts


Philadelphia Museum of Art


Who knows?

   Argument has raged over the shape of the pinnacles on the Maesta. Some go for pointed, as in the reconstruction used here; other reconstructions go for a rounded or squared off appearance. An intriguing clue comes from a panel showing St Anthony by the Master of the Osservanza, now in Berlin. (c1440).The artist has shifted the scene of St Anthony's conversion from Egypt to the Duomo in Siena - the zebra stripes give it away. And look at the extreme right - it's the Maesta in situ, seen from the side - with very pointed pinnacles!


                              
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