Triptych: the Crucifixion; the Redeemer with Angels; Saint Nicholas; Saint Gregory
Duccio di Buoninsegna and Workshop (Italian (Sienese), active in 1278, died by 1319 Italian (Sienese))
Center overall, 61.0 x 39.4 cm (24 x 15 1/2 in.); Left overall, 45.1 x 19.4 cm (17 3/4 x 7 5/8 in.); Right overall, 45.1 x 20.2 cm (17 3/4 x 7 15/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Tempera on panel
Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254)
Duccio transformed European painting at the dawn of the Italian Renaissance. He was noted for his mastery of crowd scenes and for his ability to create convincing emotional relationships among figures. Here, below the cross, mourners coalesce in shared grief around the swooning Virgin. On the other side, the violent gesticulations of soldiers and onlookers explode outwards in confusion. Duccio himself painted the blessing Christ and angels in the pinnacle as well as the elegant saints on the wings. These saints likely refer to the name of the unidentified patron. One of Duccio’s assistants probably executed most of the central panel, basing his work on prototypes by the master. This intact triptych was a portable object of private devotion, beautiful even when closed: the backs of the wings are painted in imitation of porphyry and marble. Today it is among the greatest Sienese paintings – and one of the best preserved – outside Europe.
Between 1791 and 1798, probably acquired in Italy by William Young Ottley (b. 1771 - d. 1836), London [see note 1]; by inheritance to his brother, Warner Ottley (d. about 1847); by descent within the Ottley family to Col. Sir John Walter Ottley (b. 1841- d. 1930), Leyton and Surrey, England; between about 1899 and 1904, sold by Ottley to Robert Langton Douglas (b. 1864 - d. 1951), London [see note 2]; June, 1904, sold by Robert Langton Douglas to J. Pierpont Morgan (b. 1837 - d. 1913), Aldenham, Hertfordshire [see note 3]; by inheritance to his son, J. Pierpont Morgan, II (b. 1867 - d. 1943), Aldenham; March 31, 1944, posthumous J. P. Morgan sale, Christie's, London, lot 118, to Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York [see note 4]; 1945, sold by Duveen to the MFA for $250,000. (Accession Date: December 13, 1945) NOTES:  Ottley lived in Italy between 1791 and 1798 and acquired his collection of Italian paintings there, mostly in Florence and Rome. On the formation of his collection, see J. Allan Gere, "William Young Ottley as a Collector of Drawings," British Museum Quarterly 18, no. 2 (June, 1953), pp. 44-53. The first published reference to this triptych in the Ottley collection is in G. F. Waagen's Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris (Berlin, 1837), vol. 1, p. 395.  On the fate of the Ottley collection, see E. K. Waterhouse, "Some notes on William Young Ottley's Collection of Italian Primitives," in Italian Studies Presented to E. R. Vincent (Cambridge, 1962), pp. 272-276. The triptych was in Langton Douglas's possession by 1904, when he sold it.  See Denys Sutton, "Robert Langton Douglas: Connoisseurship and Commerce," Apollo 109 (May, 1979), pp. 368-370.  Attributed in the auction catalogue to the School of Duccio.
Grant Walker and Charles Potter Kling Funds