Simone Martini

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Fourteenth century eminent artist of Italian origin, Simone Martini was known for his remarkable painting. He was the major figure in the development of early Italian painting. Moreover, he was credited for developing the modern International Gothic style.

In the Republic of Siena, Martini was born in 1284. In those days taking up an apprenticeship was a natural practice as joining a formal school these days. Hence, Martini was no exception as he became an apprentice since a very early age. Supposedly, he was apprenticed to Duccio di Buoninsegna, the leading Sienese painter of that era. While other Renaissance art biographers were of the view that he was the pupil of Giotto di Bondone.

One of his earliest documented works included a fresco painting, Maestà, which was produced in 1315. The artwork was created when he was staying in Palazzo Pubblico. The fresco occupied the whole north wall of the Sala del Mappamondo or Sala del Consiglio in the Palazzo Pubblico. The painting showcased enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels. The fresco was a version of Duccio’s Maestà but with more focus of illusionary perspective and replaced abstract with concrete. It was a little more detailed in the setting and actions of his characters compared to his predecessor’s work which was abstract in nature.

This monumental work of his is considered the representative of 14th century Italian art. Soon after, Martini’s work was imitated by Lippo Memmi in San Gimignano, his brother-in-law. That imitation was evident of Martini’s everlasting influence on Italian painters.

Martini’s artwork was quintessentially Sienese. His oeuvre played a crucial role in shaping the art form and style of Sienese painters in the years to come. He perpetuated the Sienese tradition throughout his career. The artist’s body of work is placed in direct opposition of the sobriety and monumentality of Florentine art. Some of the distinct characteristics of his work were stylized, decorative, soft features, courtly elegance and sinuosity of line. Martini’s work was influenced by French manuscript illumination and ivory carving. Through Via Francigena, a main pilgrimage and trade route from Northern Europe to Rome, that French artwork was brought to Italy.

Martini continued to improve upon himself as he produced a highly spiritual altarpiece. Entitled, Louis of Toulouse Crowning His Brother, King Robert of Anjou, the piece was created when he was in Naples. Subsequently, he composed a magnificent piece of polyptych of Madonna for the church of Santa Caterina in France. He then dedicated the 1320s to painting the 10 scenes depicting the life of St. Martini of Tours in San Francesco, Assisi. In 1328, he composed his first artwork that was devoid of any religious connotations. It was an equestrian painting featuring the portrait of general of the Sienese republic, Guidoriccio da Fogliano. Martini’s first such portrait remained influential for equestrian portraits of the Renaissance.

One of key works of his includes the painting, Annunciation, which he composed for the Siena Cathedral. It was a triptych that was divided into three panels. Along with his brother-in-law, Lippo Memmi, Simone Martini signed the artwork in 1333. The triptych featured the dematerialized forms of Gabriel and Mary with exquisite rhythm of the lines. The intricacy of his meticulous work inspired numerous artists to imitate his style. However, none of his successors could match the vigor and vibrant contours of his work.

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