FILE :  Cathedral 1
TITLE: Legends of the Virgin with Saints and Prophets

LOCATION: Duomo of Siena apse rose window E1

DIMENSIONS: Ø cm . 650. The rose window is composed of nine panels: a square, central panel surrounded by eight other panels; four that are square with a curved side, and four that are wedge-shaped, see diagram of the rose window.

PROVENANCE: original location

CRONOLOGY: 1288 (documented)

AUTHOR: Duccio di Boninsegna – designs (attribution); Dono vetraio (?) - execution; perhaps with some direct intervention by Duccio.

PATRONAGE: Camarlingo and Provveditori of the Comune di Siena – Fra’ Magio Operaio of the Opera Metropolitana.

SUBJECT/s : Legends of the Virgin. In the center: Assumption of the Virgin (pann. 9); in the surrounding panels, from top to bottom: Coronation of the Virgin (pann. 2), Dormitio Virginis [Dormition] (pann. 6); and, from left to right, the four patrons saints of Siena: Sts. Bartholomew and Ansanus (pann. 8); Sts. Crescenzio and Savinus (pann. 4); in the corner panels, from top to bottom: the St. John the Evangelist (pann.1) , St. Matthew (pann. 3), St. Luke (pann. 5), St. Mark (pann. 7).

CRITICAL NOTES: In 1854 Milanesi published the following payment, discovered among the documents preserved in Siena’s Archivio dell’Opera Metropolitana: " 1369. A maestro Jachomo di Chastello cinquanta e due fior: d’oro e trenta e quatro soldi per una finestra dietro l’altare magiore...." That payment led to a conviction that the immense, round window of the apse was carried out by Jacopo da Castello in the year 1369. The attribution was proposed by A. Lisini, and the view was shared by V. Lusini in his book published in 1911. In the same year, G. de Nicola astutely confuted the attribution. Above all, the measurements cited in the payment did not correspond to those of the stained glass in situ; and then, the delaying of the window’s execution until the second half of the fourteenth century, over a century after the activity of Duccio, seemed hardly persuasive, considering the evident affinity to Duccio’s style.

For these fundamental reasons, de Nicola advanced an attribution of the window’s cartoons to an anonymous pupil of Duccio, a proposal that was not affirmed by scholars, Lusini in particular. A contribution was made to the vexata quaestio with Bacci’s publication of two

deliberations, dated 1287 and 1288. Specified in the first is a subdivision of the financial burden of the window between the Comune and the Cathedral: "....fenestra rotunda magna quae est post altare beate Marie Virginis debeat vitrari ad requisitionem Operarii Operis eiusdem Beate Marie Virginis, hoc modo scilicet: quod vitrum dicte fenestre debeta haberi et emi expensis Comuni Senarum et totum aliud expensis Operarii predicti........". The second deliberation contains a directive to the Camarlingo and the four Provveditori del Comune to fulfill the assumed obligation and reimburse the sums advanced by the Operaio for the acquisition of the necessary glass: " si non solverent condempnentur et puniantur ipsi iiii Provisores Comuni Senarum Comuni senensi.....". Despite publishing that documentation, Bacci did not proceed to assign the great occhio to Duccio, maintaining that the twelfth-century window had been irrevocably lost.

The problem of attribution was madc even more difficult by the lengthy protraction of the retrochoir construction. Initially, in 1288, the large occhio was placed in the the cappella di S. Giovanni, located on the cathedral’s west flank. Only in 1317, after some design variants, was work at the point of erecting the back wall of the apse enlargment; and it was only in the years 1356-59 that the frame of seraphim was sculpted.

Confronting these chronological discrepencies therefore fell to Carli, who reconstructed the complex vicissitudes of the work based on a careful reading of the documents. That Fra’ Magio had acquired, in a timely manner, the material necessary for the execution of the occhio is arguable, notes Carli, from the context of the perempt deliberation of 1288; and that the Comune moved quickly to pay the amount owed is documented by two payments: the first (erroneously transcribed by Lisini and republished without a date by V. Lusini) was paid in the 1° trimester:"Item C. lib. fratri Magio operario operis Sancte Marie pro fenestra de vitreo que fieri debet supra altare Sancte Marie" (1288 - 1° semestre (common style dating); and the second in the 2° trimester: "Item XXV lib. operario Sancte Marie pro vitro fenestre fiende supra altare sancte Marie ex forma statuti".

From an astute reading of the successive documentary notes, it is evident, Carli observes, that payments for the "rota del vetro" [circular window or occhio], following on one after another beginning in 1365 on behalf of Bindo di Paolo, Andrea di Mino, and Jacopo del Castello, do not relate to execution--by then already accomplished--but are relative only to work involving consolidation (with iron bars) for the window’s definitive installation in the circular window of the apse, not to mention numerous interventions of restoration and maintenance. The scholar dates the execution of the stained glass occhio to 1288 and, based on the window’s undeniable stylistic affinities with the paintings of Duccio, upholds that Sienese master’s authorship.

The attribution to Duccio that was proposed by Carli has been contested by some scholars: by

Stubblebine, who repeats the traditional assignment to Jacopo da Castello; not to mention Sindona and White, who, seeing in the window cimabuesque stylistic traits, propose the authorship of Cimabue. But Carli’s conclusions are recognized by a majority of scholars, for whom are irrefutable the striking similarities between the window and Duccio’s paintings, as commented upon by Carli; iconographic and stylistic characteristics that belong, in fact, to the glazed panels of the Dormitio Virginis and the Coronation of the Virgin and to paintings such as the Madonna dei Francescani and the Rucellai Madonna.

Castelnuovo, confirming the authorship of Duccio, highlights the importance of the new spatial experimentation carried out in the window: the projection of the throne’s step beyond the confines of the frame in the Coronation, and the scansion of the space suggested by the cropping of the angels; or again, in the spatial construction of the sepulchre in the Dormitio Virginis. Unexplored up until now is the repertoire employed for the borders, different for each panel, and the variety of decorative elements used--circles, quadrilobes, rhombi, palmettes--in a varied chromatic relationship with the figural elements and backrounds. Comparison with the motifs in the stained glass windows at Assisi will lend further insight into the history of glazed border design (see forthcoming study, R. K. Burnam).

CONDITION: The window has undergone various interventions over the centuries. The most radical and invasive restoration is one carried out in 1697 by Giulio Francesco Agazzini di Armeno, who left a unique testimony in an "ex voto"--a remembrance of a miraculous rescue--hidden by the master in the cavity of the frame during the restoration work on the occhio: " Memoria di me maestro Giulio Francesco Agazini... come fu risarcito questo ochio di vetrate da me sudetto...". It was fortuituously discovered in February-March of 1943, when the window was removed to protect it from possible damage from bombing. Inside a little bundle tied with a red ribbon containing two giuli, an Agnus Dei was found, also a small paper with the glazier’s instructions concerning the use of the two giuli.

A detailed description of the restoration is furnished by Andrea Andreini in a report discovered in the Archivio dell’Opera: "Io Andrea Andreini sanese ò dorato e Angeli, teste di Serafini e frutti a torno l’occhio sopra al Altare grande e ancho si è restaurato detto occhio con vetri, il quale cadeva tutto a pezzi, e doppo, messo insieme i vetri bianchi li colorii nel modo che andavano e vi si fece tutta la fatura di nuovo e feramenti e rete di filo di ottone che prima non vi era". When the window was taken down, Carli was able to conduct a close examination and establish the extent of Aguzzini’s intervention. The scholar confirmed "la fatura tutta di nuovo e feramenti" noted by Andreini; that is, the replacement of the weight-bearing structure. And Carli noticed a reasonable--not above 4/6%--quantity of replaced glass pieces "...di color rosso vinato cupo e di scarsa trasparenza...", present in the lower part of the window and mostly in the panel of the Dormition. As to the repainting of vetri bianchi, according to Carli, it consisted in the retracing of the lines of the design (pupils, eyebrows, outlines). As the pigment was lightly applied on clear glass pieces, the retouches are in fact easy to see in the upper panels, and in the Coronation of the Virgin, in particular. In 1948, while the window was down, a consolidation of the wooden frame, as well as the window’s entire weight-bearing system, was undertaken.

Currently, the window displays extensive loss of glass paint (Dormitio Virginis, St. Bartholomew, St. Luke, St. Mark). The number of glued fractures is high.

Recent conservation of the window, by Camillo Tarozzi, consisted in a light cleaning of the glass surfaces and the elimination of deposits of dirt, as well as the consolidation of the leading. The panels are set in steel frames and anchored to the window opening with steel bars.


Primary sources

Archivio di Stato di Siena, Statuto di Siena n. 16, c. 11 Distinzione 1a e Statuto n. 7 Distinzione 1a (1288) c.12t; Archivio di Stato di Siena Biccherna, vol. 96 c. 406; Biccherna vol. 97 c. 143; Archivio dell’Opera di Siena, Libro di Entrata e Uscita, n. 5, f. 28t in data 5 marzo 1365; f. 49 in data aprile 1365; f. 51 in data maggio 1365; Archivio dell’Opera di Siena, Libro di Entrata e Uscita 1372-73, n.2 bis; n.4 f. 52t in data luglio 1375; Archivio dell’Opera, Memoriale di Nanni di Gualfredo n.4, 1379-80, f. 46; Archivio dell’Opera di Siena, Libro di Entrata e Uscita, 1379, c.140t; Archivio dell’Opera, Memoriale di Nanni di Gualfredo, 1380, c.46 c. s.; Archivio dell’Opera di Siena, Libro di Entrata e Uscita, 1387, n. 10, f. 83; Archivio dell’Opera di Siena, Libro di Entrata e Uscita, 1398, n.10; Archivio dell’Opera, 1697, Libro di Memoria, carte annesse.

Secondary sources

For the general bibliography on Duccio, see the Apparati at the back of the cited catalogue Duccio. Alle origini.......

PHOTOGRAPHIC REF: Siena Archivio Opera della Metropolitana [aut. n°4104] - Foto Lensini .

COMPILER: R. K. Burnam, February 2004