Siena of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was one of the great cities of Europe and its artists—Duccio, Simone Martini, and Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti—were among those who reshaped the nature and place of painting first in Italy, then across Europe. Drawing on the extraordinary riches of Sienese archives, on early unpublished secondary sources, and on the recent work of historians, Hayden Maginnis situates early Sienese painters within their society and their city and provides the first comprehensive account of the economic, social, religious, and intellectual world of Siena’s artists.
Where did painters live? How much were they paid? What was their social status? Were painters aware of the novel importance of thirteenth-century optics? Were the famous Sienese painters isolated figures, surrounded by a few secondary figures, or were they part of a larger community? These and a host of related questions structure Maginnis’s book, which demonstrates how firmly painters’ lives were embedded in the values and customs of their society and how important the particular character of their society was for the patronage artists received. The World of the Early Sienese Painter is the second volume of a trilogy Maginnis began with Painting in the Age of Giotto (1997). The third volume will turn from the broad social and cultural history of the present book to a history of early Sienese painting.
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Hayden B. J. Maginnis is Professor of Art History at McMaster University. His previous book, Painting in the Age of Giotto, was published by Penn State Press in 1997. His articles have appeared in The Burlington Magazine, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Art History, Source, and Art Bulletin.Review:
“For three decades, Hayden Maginnis has helped shape the way historians of medieval painting consider the art of Italy. Noted for his illuminating essays, Maginnis has recently set out to produce a three-volume study of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Sienese painting that will surely set the standard for new approaches to art history for generations to come. The first book in this series, the highly acclaimed Painting in the Age of Giotto: A Historical Reevaluation, appeared four years ago. That volume has now been followed by its sibling, The World of the Early Sienese Painter, a text that will surely receive similar praise. It is broad in scope, clearly organized, and beautifully written. In short, it is a book that will educate readers of all levels.
The World of the Early Sienese Painter is brilliant, creative, and suggestive, all at precisely the right junctures and in precisely the right proportions. Readers of all levels of expertise will learn much from its methodological approach and the details that inform the core of Maginnis’s text. Remarkably, the third tome in this series promises to be the most important, as Maginnis will build upon the foundations put in place in the first two to shape new interpretations of monumental Sienese painting. If this forthcoming volume is as fresh, honest, and challenging as the first two, Maginnis will have succeeded in producing perhaps the most comprehensive and innovative study of Sienese painting in generations.”
—Goerge R. Bent, CAA Reviews
“The cumulative effect is to provide a close understanding of the daily existence of artists at a key moment. For, as Maginnis reminds us, these were the very years that ‘made painting a major and widespread art in Italy and beyond’—and ‘laid the foundation of the West’s preoccupation with painting down to our era’. Maginnis often returns to a contemporary standpoint. Could it be . . . that by exploring these origins we may better understand painting’s recent dethronement from its seven centuries’ sway as the dominant medium of visual representation?”
—Timothy Hyman, Times Literary Supplement
“A model of innovative and careful scholarship, Maginnis’s book will be an essential resource for all scholars of early Italian painting.”
—Linda A. Koch, Sixteenth Century Journal
“This is an impressively original piece of work. Maginnis has a fresh and individual point of view, firmly grounded in close familiarity with the original works of art and wide reading in the published documents and archives. There can be little doubt that this book will permanently alter the way we approach Sienese painting in the age of Duccio and Simone Martini.”
—Julian Gardner, The University of Warwick
“On the whole, however, this is a book that everyone who studies Sienese painting should read—indeed, will need to read. Formally, such a guide to the world of Sienese painter simply did not exist.”
—Henk Van Os, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies
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