Detail. The Resurrection of Christ. From the Maesta Altarpiece. 1308-1311. Now Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
WITHOUT DOUBT those who are inventors of anything notable receive the greatest attention from the pens of the writers of history, and this comes to pass because the first inventions are more observed and held in greater marvel, by reason of the delight that the novelty of the thing brings with it, than all the improvements made afterwards by any man whatsoever when works are brought to the height of perfection, for the reason that if a beginning were never given to anything, there would be no advance and improvement in the middle stages, and the end would not become excellent and of a marvellous beauty. Duccio, then, painter of Siena and much esteemed, deserved to carry off the palm from those who came many years after him, since in the pavement of the Duomo of Siena he made a beginning in marble for the inlaid work of the figures in chiaroscuro, wherein today modern craftsmen have made the marvels that are seen in them. He applied himself to the imitation of the old manner, and with very sane judgment gave dignified forms to his figures, which he fashioned very excellently in spite of the difficulties of such an art. With his own hand, imitating the pictures in chiaroscuro, he arranged and designed the beginnings of the said pavement, and he made in the Duomo a panel that was then placed on the high altar, and afterwards removed thence in order to place there the Tabernacle of the Body of Christ, which is seen there at the present day. In this panel, according to the description of Lorenzo di Bartolo Ghiberti, there was a Coronation of Our Lady, wrought, as it were, in the Greek manner, but blended considerably with the modern. And as it was painted both on the back part and on the front, the said high altar being isolated right round, on the said back part there had been made by Duccio with much diligence all the principal stories of the New Testament, with very beautiful little figures. I have sought to learn where this panel is to be found today, but, for all the diligence that I have thereunto used, I have never been able to discover it, or to learn what Francesco di Giorgio, the sculptor, did with it when he remade the said tabernacle in bronze, as well as the marble ornaments that are therein.
He made, likewise, many panels on grounds of gold throughout Siena, and one in Florence, in S. Trinita, wherein there is an Annunciation. He painted, next, very many works for diverse churches in Pisa, in Lucca, and in Pistoia, which were all consummately praised and acquired for him very great fame and profit. Finally, it is not known where this Duccio died, nor what relatives, disciples, or wealth he left; it is enough that, for having left art the heir to his invention of making pictures of marble in chiaroscuro, he deserves infinite commendation and praise for such a benefit to art, and that he can be assuredly numbered among the benefactors who confer advancement and adornment on our profession, considering that those who go on investigating the difficulties of rare inventions leave their memory behind them, besides all their marvellous works.
They say in Siena that Duccio, in the year 1348, gave the design for the chapel that is in the square, against the wall of the Palazzo Principale; and it is read that there lived in his times a sculptor and architect of passing good talent from the same country, named Moccio, who made many works throughout all Tuscany, and particularly one in the Church of S. Domenico in Arezzo, namely, a tomb of marble for one of the Cerchi, which tomb acts as support and ornament for the organ of the said church; and although it may appear to some that it is not a very excellent work, yet, if it is considered that he made it while still a youth, in the year 1356, it cannot but seem passing good. This man served in the building of S. Maria del Fiore as under-architect and as sculptor, making certain works in marble for that fabric; and in Arezzo he rebuilt the Church of S. Agostino, which was small, in the manner that it is today, and the expense was borne by the heirs of Piero Saccone de' Tarlati, according as he had ordained before he died in Bibbiena, a place in the Casentino; and because Moccio erected this church without any vaulting, and laid the weight of the roof on the arches of the columns, he exposed himself to a great peril and was truly too bold. The same man made the Church and Convent of S. Antonio, which, before the siege of Florence, was at the Porta a Faenza, and today is wholly ruined; and he wrought in sculpture the door of S. Agostino in Ancona, with many figures and ornaments similar to those which are on the door of S. Francesco in the same city. In this Church of S. Agostino he also made the tomb of Fra Zenone Vigilanti, Bishop, and General of the Order of the said S. Augustine; and finally, he built the Loggia de' Mercatanti of that city, which has since received, now for one reason and now for another, many improvements in the modern manner, with ornaments of various sorts. All these works, although they are in these days much less than passable, were then much extolled, according to the standard of knowledge of these men. But returning to our Duccio, his works date about the year of our salvation 1350.