We had the chance to visit Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the museum of the cathedral. It contains sculptures, paintings, icons, and many other treasures.
As you enter the first gallery, you see a collection of fourteenth-century Sienese sculpture by Giovanni Pisano. The extraordinary marble statues portraying Sibyls, Prophets and Philosophers of antiquity that Pisano sculpted while master-builder between 1285 and 1297.
At the end of the room is a stained glass window. This large stained-glass window, made for the oculus in the aspe of Siena Cathedral between 1287 and 1288, is undoubtedly one of the most important works by Duccio di Buoninsegna and by far one of the most important in Italy. A document of 1287 resolves and orders that the large round window behind the altar of the great church of the Blessed Virgin Mary be filled with stained-glass.
The window was dismantled for the first time in 1943 in an effort to protect it from war damage. On this occasion the extraordinary masterpiece was traced to the skillful hand of Duccio di Buoninsegna. The scenes reveal the gentle narrative style of the great Sienese master and a new sense of space probably derived from the work of Giotto.
Stained-Glass Window in Duomo MuseumThe window magnificently presents a hymn by Duccio to the Virgin Mary and sublime transcendence. In its 20 feet of diameter and 323 square feet of surface, it shows three stories from her life: the burial, assumption, and coronation, as well as the four patron saints of Siena and the four evangelists. The dazzling palette is characteristic of Duccio’s artistic language: the intense blue of the backgrounds, golden yellow, ruby red, amethyst purple, and emerald green of the clothes, along with a delicate pink used for flesh tones, glow in a radiant play of colors. But the true innovation here is the use of the grisaille; Duccio has personally intervened, paintbrush in hand, to trace the details of the faces, draperies, and wings of the Angels within filaments of paint.
Here, in greater detail, are the individual panels.
Stories from Mary’s Life
The Patron Saints of Siena
The Four Evangelists
You can see that some of the hand-painted details are no longer visible (especially in the face of Saint Mark), but the detail of the glass and vibrant colors are beautiful, especially, when you consider that this work dates from 1287, almost 730 years old.
The commentary on the stained glass window is from the placard in the museum.
More treasures to come from this museum next time.