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The Raising of Lazarus

Giotto, Duccio1310–11

Kimbell Art Museum

Kimbell Art Museum

Duccio was the preeminent Sienese painter in the early years of the fourteenth century. He infused the prevailing Byzantine style with a more naturalistic, narrative mode. The Kimbell painting originally formed part of the altarpiece known as the Maestà (Majesty), made for the high altar of Siena Cathedral. The Maestà was among the most beautiful and complex altarpieces ever made. Some sixteen feet in height, it was painted on both sides, the front showing the Madonna and Child enthroned with saints and the rear showing episodes from the life of Christ. The front predella (a boxlike base) depicted events from Christ’s childhood, and the back predella recounted his ministry.

The Kimbell Raising of Lazarus was most likely the final scene of this back predella, providing the climactic proof of Christ’s divinity, when he brings a man back from the dead. The Gospel according to John (11:1–44) tells how when Lazarus fell ill, his sisters Martha and Mary sent for his friend Jesus. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was already dead four days. Duccio shows the moment when Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb, prefiguring his own Resurrection.

A noteworthy compositional change is apparent at the lower right. The paint surface, thinned by age, reveals an underlying paint layer showing a horizontal sarcophagus.

This and several other panels became separated from the Maestà after it was dismantled in 1771. Most of the panels are today in the Siena Cathedral museum.

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  • Title: The Raising of Lazarus
  • Creator: Duccio di Buoninsegna
  • Date Created: 1310–11
  • Physical Dimensions: 17 1/8 x 18 1/4 in. (43.5 x 46.4 cm)
  • Provenance: Siena Cathedral, as part of the Maest... installed on the high altar between 1311 and 1506; afterwards, until 1771, in the left transept; Guiseppe and Marziale Dini, Colle Alto, Val d’Elsa, near Siena, by 1879; purchased through (Charles Fairfax Murray, London and Florence) by Robert Henry Benson [1850-1929] and Evelyn Holford Benson [1856-1943], London and Buckhurst Park, Sussex, by 1886; purchased by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York), 1927. John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. [1874-1960], New York, c. 1929; by descent to his son, David Rockefeller [b. 1915], New York, 1960; purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1975.
  • Rights: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
  • External Link: www.kimbellart.org
  • Medium: Tempera and gold on panel
  • Century: 14th century
  • Artist Nationality: Italian
  • Artist Dates: (active 1278–1318)

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