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Secret meanings of the masterpiece fresco “Maestro” by Simone Martini, who was called the most famous artist of all time

A disciple of the great founder of the Renaissance Giotto and a favorite of Modigliani-Simone Martini embodied in his work the Sienese artistic principles, introduced many innovations in the art of painting, which became a guiding star for young masters, and also created a truly masterpiece fresco – “Maesta”, about the true meaning of which art historians are still debating today.
Martini’s painting is melodic, symbolic and poetic (influenced by his friendship with the poet Francesco Petrarch). One legend has reached the present day. It is said that Simone Martini painted a portrait of Petrarch’s beautiful lover-Laura. Giorgio Vasari (author of the famous “Biographies”), wrote that the portrait was as delightful as the girl herself. In response to the portrait, Petrarch gave Simone poetic lines:
⦁ No Polyclitus, the celebrated in art,
Not a thousand others like him…
⦁ and the second one is like this:
⦁ When I put the brush in Simone’s hand,
⦁ Was the master suddenly gripped by inspiration…
Indeed, few of his contemporaries could match the skill of Simone Martini. One of the masterpieces in the artist’s work is the fresco “Maesta” (1315). This is the first fresco to adorn the Council hall in the Palazzo Pubblico, built in 1304 and 1310. the Colors faded over time, the plaster crumbled, but the former solemnity and luxury of the frescoes remained.

The deep blue background emphasizes the brilliance and radiance of Golden hues, the refinement of the frame and, of course, the beauty of the throne of the virgin Mary. The mural shines with gold, blue and pink palette colors. It is framed by a luxurious ornament like an embroidered Persian carpet. The frame is decorated with twenty medallions depicting the Blessing of Christ, the Prophets and Evangelists (in the corners, each with its own symbol), as well as shields with the coat of arms of the people of Siena — the lion. Flowers and white-and-black armorial shields are attributes of Siena, the city for whose town hall the fresco was created. In addition, Martini is a master of the Sienese school of painting.
Message of the mural
The main message of the mural comes from its location: it is the Palace of municipal government in Siena, built for the Council of Nine (Advisory body) and the Podesta (head of administration). Thus, the inscription on the scroll held by the infant Jesus (“Love justice, you who judge on earth!”), is the basic principle of good government and edifying advice for those who will sit and rule in the town hall. The Council of Nine is addressed not only by Jesus, but also by the virgin Mary herself. It calls on them to govern the city in the name of those moral and religious principles that guarantee harmony and justice.
Madonna with child
The Madonna and Child figure on a Golden majestic throne. The virgin Mary holds Jesus, who distributes blessings with dignity. Their figures are associated with two major innovations in the Renaissance. The first is a rather arbitrary adherence to strict canonical rules in the depiction of the faces and poses of the heroes of the Bible. The Renaissance is the beginning of the New age, when the mother of God could be painted in the image of a wife or sister, and the boy Jesus — in the face of a neighbor’s boy. This is the time when the masters of painting felt freedom and could afford the unacceptable, from which a masterpiece was born. Progress is driven by freedom, initiative, and courage. Simone Martini had the same courage to go over the edge. The second thing that catches your eye is the majestic throne, as if carved in a very expensive jewelry workshop. The viewer sees the virgin Mary not as a modest woman in a simple dress, but as a virgin Queen on a magnificent throne, in a magnificent mantle and crown with jewels. The halo over her head and that of Jesus is not just a glow, it is a lush, Golden and elegant cloud. An absolute innovation of Simone Martini in comparison with the analogues of “Maesta” — an impressive canopy of red silk, crowning the entire stage on a dark blue background. At that time, Italy was actively developing trade and economic relations with the East, and its influence in the middle East is also evident in many aspects of this work.
On both sides of the throne, angels are symmetrically depicted, offering the Madonna Golden trays with flowers of cloud-filled fields, roses and lilies. The pillars that support the canopy are supported by the apostles Peter, Paul, and John the Theologian, as well as John the Baptist. The support pillars of the canopy are placed in perspective, which gives a sense of depth to the composition.
On the red stripe at the bottom of the mural, an inscription in Italian is written in gold letters, translated: “in 1315, when Diana (=Spring) had already opened her flowers, and Juno (= June) exclaimed that she turned (=June 15), then Sienna painted me with the hand of Simone.” Thus, Simone signed his work and indicated the date of its creation.
The art of Simone Martini contains many other innovations, such as a personal interpretation of elements of French Gothic-in the mural it is a pointed arched structure of the throne, precious materials in the mural and gold ornaments-all this gives the whole scene a secular mood. But there is something more. Simone has developed a new way of understanding art: the walls of the Council hall are not just painted, but carved and decorated with colored glass, convex surfaces, and bright colors. Simone worked with great perseverance on materials such as glass, tin, gold, and so on, passing on his experience to colleagues and students.

Simone Martini became famous throughout Italy. His art served as a model for numerous imitations, gaining fame in other cities of Italy and countries of medieval Europe. Above the tomb of Simone is the following epitaph of Vasari, which is absolutely justly awarded to him: “to Simone memmi, of all artists of all times, the most famous. Lived 60 years, 2 months, 3 days ” Vasari.

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