Guido di Siena: Badia Ardegna Altarpiece
The panels shown here were taken from a dismantled altarpiece, or dossal, from the abbey of Ardegna in Montalcino, Tuscany. They ended up in galleries around the world, and the original configuration is unclear. The attempt to reconstruct it by Holger Manzke is shown below; this is extremely hypothetical and a number of art historians do not go along with it.  One suggestion is that they formed am altar frontal, with no central image.   
  Little is known of the Artist Guido di Siena, who worked c 1260 - 1280 in Siena.
 



Coronation of the Virgin. Courtauld Gallery, London
It is by no means certain that this formed the crowning panel of the Bardia Ardegna altarpiece, but it is an interesting image, thought to be the earliest depiction of the Coronation of the Virgin in Sienese art. Enlarged image of the central image below. The Latin text held by Christ says 'Come my chosen one and let me place you on my throne'.


 

Annunciation. University Art Museum, Princeton


Nativity. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The top left hand corner of the Annunciation does suggest that the reconstruction shown above is correct, though this may be a later alteration. The Nativity is typically Byzantine: The Virgin lies in a cave, with the Christ child behind her. Another image of the Christ Child is before her, being washed by two maidens. Joseph is to the left: the shepherds arrive on the right, welcomed by the angel in red. Presumably the dog belongs to the shepherds and has got there first.


Adoration of the Magi. Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg.

Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The Magi have arrived, and their horses are to the left. Curious mountains, trees and buildings are behind. The Virgin sits sideways on a forward-facing throne. In the Presentation scene, Joseph stands on the right, holding his offering of two turtle doves.  On the left is the Prophetess Anna, mentioned in the Gospel of Luke.


Flight into Egypt. Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg.


Massacre of the Innocents. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.
An attendant leads the horse in the Flight into Egypt, while Joseph, with a bundle over his shoulder, follows on. Some legends suggest that the attendant is a son of Joseph from a previous marriage. The Massacre of the Innocents is very badly damaged. Herod gives orders to his troops from the window, while on the left we see powerful images of the grief-stricken mothers. An enlarged image is reproduced below.


Kiss of Judas. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.

Flagellation. Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg.
The left-hand side of the Kiss of Judas scene is missing. The figure on the right, probably St Peter, tries to prevent the incident happening. In the Flagellation scene, the figures right and left are damaged, and it is suggested that devotees deliberately scratched them.


Ascent to the Cross. Museum Catherijneconvent, Utrecht.

Crucifixion. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.
The Ascent to the Cross is an unusual scene in religious art. Here, a figure in red pulls Christ upwards, while Mary tries to hold him back, and push away the soldiers. Beneath the cross a figure holds up a hammer and three nails. On the right, one of the thieves is shown as a naked figure. The Crucifixion scene shows Mary and St. John on the left, but who is the haloed figure on the right? Joseph of Arimathea, perhaps.


Deposition. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.




 Lamentation. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.

The deposition scene has been quite heavily restored. Mary holds the body of Christ, while a bearded figure, possibly Joseph of Arimathea supports it. Joseph appears in this role in other early paintings. The other, younger bearded figure may be Nicodemus. At the bottom a figure is removing the nails from the feet of Christ, whose body is very distorted. The figure on the right may be Mary Magdalene. The Lamentation scene is also badly damaged. The weeping figures on the left bring back the memory of the weeping mothers in the Massacre of the Innocents.

The two Madonna and Child paintings below have both be considered as forming part of the altarpiece. In both cases, this is unlikely, but it does provide an excuse for looking at two interesting examples of Sienese art. The Madonna is the patron saint of Assisi, and it has been claimed that she ensured the city's success in warfare, especially against Florence.
The painting on the left above is in the Cathedral of Siena, and is known as the Madonna delle Grazie. In the fourteenth century it was highly regarded, and was even claimed to work miracles. As you can see from the attempted reconstruction at the top of the page, Holger Manzke suggested that it was at the heart of the altarpiece we are looking at; there is a further suggestion that this altarpiece was originally placed in  the cathedral and was moved to a new location later, perhaps when Duccio outdid it with his Maesta c 1310. More recent research suggests a different attribution, Dietisalvi di Speme, an artist active around the same time as Guido de Siena.    
   The Madonna above right was in the church of San Domenico; it is now in the Palazzo Publico. A partial signature seems to identify Guido as the artist, though there is confusion over the inscription, which contains a date of 1221, long before Guido and in no way approriate to the style here. It has been linked with the Badia Ardegna polyptych, but its large size make this improbable.  

 

  

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