'Sotto uno baldachino trionfale': the ritual significance of the painted canopy in Simone Martini's Maestà

Norman, Diana (2006). 'Sotto uno baldachino trionfale': the ritual significance of the painted canopy in Simone Martini's Maestà. Renaissance Studies, 20(2) pp. 147–160.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2006.00193.x

Abstract

The last restoration of Simone Martini's "Maesta" in the Sala del Mappamondo of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena has revealed that the canopy over the throne of the Virgin and Christ Child carries not only the heraldic emblems of the Sienese Commune, but also those of the kingdoms of France and of Naples. Although scholars have discussed the meaning of this canopy, very few have explored the reasons for including these royal emblems. Hayden Maginnis (2002), however, has drawn attention to a number of visits by Angevin princes to Siena that took place between 1310 and 1315 and suggested that these might well have prompted the novel inclusion of the canopy and its royal heraldry. This essay, therefore, explores the relationship and relevance of these royal entries for the subject matter and imagery of Simone Martini's "Maesta". In so doing, it examines the political and ritual significance of the three entries, comparing them with other contemporary Italian and Provencal cities. It also takes account of the particular context of the "Maesta" within what was then the principal council hall of Siena and proposes a series of equivalences between the political messages offered by this monumental painting and those offered by the rituals devised to honour powerful visitors to the city, such as the Angevin princes. Drawing on the work of recent scholarship in ritual theory, it argues that the "Maesta" was intended to offer its first audience an immediate and pwerful demonstration of what the Sienese state should be, not necessarily what it was.

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