Artibus et Historiae no. 66 (XXXIII)

2012, ISSN 0391-9064

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GAVIN WIENS - Spaces Made Strange: Architectural Oddity as Devotional Catalyst in the Passion Sequence of Duccio’s Maestà (pp. 9–28)

This analysis is intended to elaborate upon some of the existing accounts of possible meanings for the Passion sequence from the reverse side of the fourteenth-century high altarpiece of Siena Cathedral, the Maestà of Duccio di Buoninsegna. I will argue that the Passion sequence was designed for multiple levels of reading depending on the spectator’s specific faculties of comprehension. At the basic level the Passion sequence provided the viewer with pictorial narratives of the biblical historia that could be read in a literal sense. Beyond this level, however, the structure of the Maestà provided visual cues that acted as points of entry for the contemplation of the invisible figural meanings that lay behind Christ’s Passion. These points of entry appear throughout the Passion sequence in the form of disruptions in the logic of the field of representation through the manipulation of architectural elements. Such figural “movements” were encouraged by the peculiar layout and design of the Passion sequence from the reverse of the Maestà.

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