The Crucifixion; the Redeemer with Angels; Saint Nicholas; Saint Gregory

1311–18
Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian (Sienese), active in 1278, died by 1319)


Dimensions

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.)

Accession Number

45.880

Medium or Technique

Tempera on panel

On View

Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254)

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Paintings

More than 700 years ago in the Italian city of Siena, Duccio transformed European painting, ushering in a new era of refined elegance in the arts of Tuscany and beyond. Today he is celebrated for both his unprecedented delicacy and his vigorous storytelling. 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. The saints on the wings possibly represent the patron saints of the unidentified owner. Given the demand for his work, Duccio took on assistants who were trained in his style. One of them probably executed most of the central panel, basing the composition on prototypes by the master. This compact triptych was easily portable for use in private devotion. Although made of wood, the meticulous construction, gold backgrounds, and profusion of fine detail make this a precious object. Today it is among the greatest Sienese paintings—and one of the best preserved—outside Europe.

Provenance

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:
[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] See Denys Sutton, "Robert Langton Douglas: Connoisseurship and Commerce," Apollo 109 (May, 1979), pp. 368-370.

[4] Attributed in the auction catalogue to the School of Duccio.

Credit Line

Grant Walker and Charles Potter Kling Funds