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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Healing of the Man born Blind” by Duccio

"The Healing of the Man born Blind" by Duccio
“The Healing of the Man born Blind” by Duccio

“The Healing of the Man born Blind” by Duccio shows Christ in the centre of the scene, and the blind man is shown twice in the composition. The man is shown being touched by Christ on his eyes, and then the man is shown looking up with his sight restored and dropping his guiding stick on the right of the canvas. The two episodes are linked visually by the blind man’s rod. This painting is an early example of how Italian artist began leading the move away from the traditions of Byzantine art. Duccio started by making people’s faces, hands and feet more expressive and realistic. Ducco introduced warmer colours and attempts at portraying the perspective of the background architecture.

This was one of the scenes on the back predella named Duccio’s ‘Maestà’. The back predella illustrated scenes from Christ’s life and ministry. The Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. This panel was originally positioned to the left of “The Transfiguration”, thus the blind man was looking with his newly restored sight at a vision of Christ transfigured.

The ‘Maestà’ is a double-sided altarpiece in which the front panels show the enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels, and a predella of the Childhood of Christ with prophets. The reverse has the rest of a combined cycle of the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ in a total of forty-three small scenes. Duccio’s Maestà set Italian painting founded on Byzantine art towards more realistic presentations.

Duccio

Duccio di Buoninsegna was active in Siena, Tuscany, in the late 13th and early 14th century. He completed many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting styles of the Sienese school.

Reflections

  • Were paintings like this one the start of realism in painting?
  • How does this painting differ from traditional Byzantine paintings?

Explore

The Healing of the Man Born Blind

  • Title:           The Healing of the Man Born Blind
  • Artist:         Duccio
  • Year:           1311
  • Medium:    Tempera on wood
  • Dimensions: 45.1 x 46.7 cm
  • Museum:    National Gallery, London

Duccio

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“You must change your life”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

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Photo Credit: 1) Duccio di Buoninsegna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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