Rucellai Madonna

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Rucellai Madonna, 1285, Duccio
by REID GUEMMER

I'll admit, Renaissance art has never exactly appealed to me. I've never found solace in a painting which displays the classic values of the medium, despite the almost constant religious subject matter. I've admired the gold leaf press and the rich blues, but I have never felt anything but aesthetic pleasure from renaissance paintings.

Although, one thing I do admire about Renaissance art is the progressive mindset. The desire artists had to learn and evolve was well and alive.  Experimentation with the basic Greek and Roman styles led to the development of everything we consider art today. The most influential artists of the period were taught by one another. They all took bits and pieces of what they found admirable and worth experimenting with from each others work, using them to complete the beautiful masterpieces we can still see today. Although the result creates a common difficultly between art historians studying the period, and that is to differentiate the work of these artists.


Rucellai Madonna, for example, caused its fair amount of controversy between art historians. The question at hand: was the painting done by Duccio or his mentor Cimabue? Although art historian Franz Wickhoff later decided to compared Ruccellai Madonna to Duccio's most famous work, Maestà. He found that the two paintings shared many similarities and overlapped in technique, providing enough evidence for Duccio to reclaim his piece.


For me, Renaissance art is less about the individual but more about the progression of a era. Although Rucellai Madonna isn't Duccio's most famous piece, I feel it defines his stylistic evolution. It serves as a mile marker in his career, one that works as a compilation of all the characteristics he experimented with, all their prime.

I'm not sure I'll ever get over the creepy man babies constantly portrayed in Renaissance painting, but I can slowly feel myself warming up to style. Despite what it seems, Renaissance art is much more than just religious paintings. It functioned as a great turning point in style and the development of all that is today.

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