Stroganoff Madonna by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Interpretation of Gothic-Style Sienese School Religious Painting

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Stroganoff Madonna by Duccio di Buoninsegna
The Stroganoff Madonna
By Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Regarded as one of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.

Stroganoff Madonna & Child (c.1300)


Further Resources


Painting: Stroganoff Madonna and Child
Date: 1300
Artist: Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319)
Medium: Tempera and gold on wood
Genre: Religious history painting
Movement: Sienese School of Painting
Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

For explanations of other pictures, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.

Fine art posters of paintings
by Duccio di Buoninsegna, are
are widely available online.
See also: Poster Art.

Painting Appreciation
To understand Christian art
like the Madonna & Child
by Duccio Buoninsegna,
see our educational
article for students:
Art Evaluation:
How to Appreciate Art

Interpretation of Stroganoff Madonna & Child

The Stroganoff Madonna (c.1300), a masterpiece of religious art from the trecento Sienese School of painting, is a small devotional picture, painted in tempera and gold on a wood panel. It is one of the highlights of the permanent collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also known as the Stoclet Madonna, it was painted by the headstrong genius Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319), and exemplifies the progressive but traditional style of painting which flourished in Siena, during the Proto-Renaissance period (1290-1400), at the same time as Cimabue (c.1240-1302) and Giotto (1270-1337) were developing a more naturalistic style in Assisi, Padua and Florence. A precursor of the International Gothic style, the picture is an important landmark in the transition from Medieval to Renaissance image making and anticipates the works of artists like Simone Martini (1284-1344), Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-69), and ultimately Giovanni Bellini (1435-1516).


More Analysis of Stroganoff Madonna

Duccio's Style Compared to Giotto's

During the period 1290-1310, Western fine art painting underwent a series of seminal changes introduced by Giotto and Duccio. Both painters explored different ways of pictorializing the Christian message to enable viewers to relate Biblical art to their personal experience of the world, while retaining the mystery of Jesus Christ, and his role in the salvation of Man. Giotto, at Assisi in the 1290s and then at Padua's Arena Chapel in the 1300s, focused on the creation of more realistic three-dimensional figures, with more naturalistic attributes, and used an early form of perspective to give his pictures extra depth and space. In contrast, Duccio pursued a flatter style of painting derived from Byzantine art, but imbued it with an exquisite sense of colour, as well as a range of carefully articulated figures endowed with a deep human sentiment, so as to achieve an equally inspirational effect: less naturalistic perhaps, but more lyrical, tender and emotional. No less than Giotto's religious paintings in the Scrovegni/Arena Chapel, Duccio's Maesta altarpiece for Siena cathedral (1311, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena) became a major point of reference for the next generation of Tuscan artists.

Devotional Painting

While the Maesta was a multi-panelled and very public example of Duccio's altarpiece art, the Stroganoff Madonna and Child - at roughly 9.5 inches x 6 inches - is a very personal type of art, intended to be hung on a wall and prayed to, like the icons of the Byzantine church. And Duccio's new and unique ability to endow his holy figures with a physical and emotional dimension was first showcased in this beautiful devotional picture, which is also one of the few "stand-alone" Duccios, not part of any ensemble. Two reasons why the work is so rare and why the Met paid a reported $45 million to secure it.


Duccio's Madonna and Child remains a landmark of European painting, for yet another reason. The Madonna is depicted as if standing behind a parapet - one of the earliest instances of the illusionistic device that both connects and separates the timeless space occupied by the divine figures and the real space and time of the viewer. The art historian John White described the Stroganoff Madonna and Child as the "first, lonely forerunner of that long line of Italian Madonnas with a parapet..." At the same time, the work's monumental pose and beautifully rendered drapery lends it an air of classical sculpture.

In a much quoted comment on the sublime nature of the picture, made after viewing its public debut at the 1904 exhibition held in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, Mary Logan, wife of Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), the art critic and expert in Renaissance art wrote: "the little Madonna of Duccio... small though it is, offers so much majesty, dignity, and profound sentiment... it is worth all the other paintings exhibited under the name of Duccio."


Duccio's painting is most commonly known as the Stroganoff Madonna, after its first recorded owner, Count Grigorii Stroganoff, a devoted collector of Italian pre-Renaissance paintings, who died in 1910. It is also sometimes referred to as the Stoclet Madonna, in honour of the Belgian industrial magnate Adolphe Stoclet, who purchased the painting after Stroganoff's death. Stocklet's grandchildren inherited the painting in 2002, and disposed of it through Christie's, to the New York Metropolitan Museum in November 2004.


In his book, From Duccio to Raphael: Connoisseurship in Crisis (2007), the late James Beck, former Professor of Art History at New York's Columbia University, came to the conclusion on stylistic grounds that Duccio's Stroganoff Madonna and Child is a forgery, created some time during the 19th century. He cited both the low quality of the painting as well as certain elements that he stated had not yet appeared in pictures of the period. In rebuttal, Keith Christiansen, the curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum, confirmed that the museum conducted a thorough examination of the painting, including the wooden panel's construction, the painting's colour pigments and underdrawing, all of which were consistent with the work being painted by Duccio around 1300.

Duccio di Buoninsegna

After completing his Madonna and Child, Duccio went on to win the commission for the 225 square-feet altarpiece in Siena Cathedral, for which he created his masterpiece the Maesta (1311). These two compositions are among no more than a dozen independent surviving works by the Sienese master. They can be found in some of the best art museums in the world, including: The Metropolitan Museum New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Frick Collection, New York; National Gallery, London; Museo d'arte sacra della Val d'Arbia, Buonconvento; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena; Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena; Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy; Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia, Italy; and the Odescalchi Collection, Rome.



Further Resources

If you're interested in the Pre-Renaissance painting of the 14th century, try these resources:

Annunciation Triptych (1333) Uffizi Gallery, Florence
By Simone Martini (1284-1344).

Allegory of Good and Bad Government (1338-9) Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
By Ambrogio Lorenzetti (c.1285-1348).

See also: How To Appreciate Paintings.

• For more masterpieces, see our main index: Homepage.

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