Comparison Between Duccio Di Buoninsegna and Fra Filippo Lippi Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1676 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Duccio and Fra Filippo

A Comparison of Duccio's Madonna and Child and Fra Filippo's Portrait of a Woman at a Casement

This paper will look at Duccio di Buoninsegna's Madonna and Child (ca. 1300, tempera and gold on wood, 11 x 8 in.) and Fra Filippo Lippi's Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement (ca. 1440, tempera on wood, 25 1/4 x 16 1/2 in.). The contrast between the two works will be noted in both subject and style. Any comparison between the two works will be related to the fact that both paintings act as records or reflections of society and beliefs at the end. Duccio reflects the religious ideology at the end of the medieval world or the Late Middle Ages. Fra Filippo reflects the wealth and increasing emphasis on human affairs (as opposed to Divine) in the Italian Renaissance. The theme of the comparison will be how each artist lures the viewer into the "fictive" life of painting.

How Each Work Represents the Period in which It Was Created

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Duccio's Madonna and Child represents the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century in Italy by displaying the Child Jesus in the lap of His Mother the Virgin Mary. In other words, this is a painting of the God Whom the men and women of Duccio's day worshipped. Indeed, Duccio's Madonna is a marvelous reflection of the kind of iconography popular throughout the Middle Ages. As Giorgio Vasari states, "Duccio devoted himself to the imitation of the ancient manner, but very judiciously gave his figures a certain grace of outline, which he succeeded in securing notwithstanding the great difficulties presented by the branch of art now in question."

Term Paper on Comparison Between Duccio Di Buoninsegna and Fra Filippo Lippi Assignment

Duccio depicted in a traditional manner the religious beliefs of his age but also gave them a special touch -- a breath of freshness and life. His Madonna and Child, in a way, foreshadow the coming humanism that grew out of the Renaissance. In fact, the very parapet behind which the Madonna and Child are situated seems to invite the viewer to be a part of the scene. It invites him to accept the Madonna and Child as a part of his life -- as though bringing to reality the abstract concepts which they represent. In this manner, Duccio represents his day and age: he reveals an inability on the part of the contemporary Italian to relate to the Divine; he needs to feel as though he were part of the picture -- and the parapet helps make that feeling possible.

Fra Filippo Lippi's Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement also represents mid-15th century Italy, which had become very wealthy thanks to the rise of the merchant class and the ongoing trade between East and West. Here we see a documentation of an Italian couple "who were married in 1436."

The wealth of the rising class is reflected in the possessions of the woman, in her elaborate dress, in her ornaments, in her jewels, and in the garden which is shown in the background. At this time in Italy, riches and wealth were things to be admired and to be proud of -- and Fra Filippo appears to be making a record of the richness of this woman's family. One can see in the transition from Duccio to Fra Filippo the degree to which the Italian culture had shifted its attention and focus away from the things of God to the things of Man.


Duccio's composition is in the traditional Madonna and Child iconographic style. The Madonna and Child are situated against a completely gold backdrop. Third dimension is created in the way the Madonna and Child are situated, in the folds of her dress and in the Child's reach for His Mother's face. The Madonna and Child form a kind of pyramid in the center of the scene and the surrounding space is used to show off the gold color. The Madonna and Child are not dwarfed by the gold but, on the contrary, the gold illuminates their presence and helps them to stand out even more.

Fra Filippo's composition consists of the woman's profile as she faces the man, only the head of whom appears in profile through a window. Behind her is the rest of the room and another window that lets out onto the garden outside. She is dressed in her finest gowns, and it is in this dress that the composition achieves a three-dimensional feel. The composition is more or less centered on the woman and her headdress extends to the very top of the frame while her hands folded across her front frame the bottom.

Human Form, Color and Light

The use of shadow and light also helps give the effect of a third dimension. Duccio was known for his use of chiaroscuro and this style is apparent here, especially in the dress of the Madonna which varies from dark to light to emphasize her human form. The traditional dark blue color is used for the Madonna's gown and this blue is offset by the Child's orange robe. The colors fit nicely together as they are complementary of one another. The hands and face have an olive tone and the use of light helps these parts of the human form stand out.

Fra Filippo's colors appear to be much softer than Duccio's bold blue, orange, olive and gold color scheme. Fra Filippo's Portrait consists of reds, greens, and dull ochres. The human form of the woman is pale but it conveys dimension with touches of shade. However, the woman's form appears to stand out against the rest of the portrait as though she were somehow outside of it all even as she is part of the composition. She is more than anything else in the frame the object that receives the most light. Indeed, everything around her is draped in a dull shade. She is highlighted by jewels that reflect the light and fine garments. Her blonde hair pulled back under her headdress helps add to the lightness of her form. The direction of light appears to come from above and be focused on her face.


The perspective of Duccio's Madonna and Child is frontal. We view them directly from the front as they appear behind a parapet of which we see only the top in the bottom portion of the painting. The perspective is traditional for iconography and is the most direct for showing the Madonna and Child. It emphasizes the subject without distraction.

The point-of-view of Fra Filippo's Portrait is also from a front angle -- but the woman is turned to face the man at the window and so we see only her profile from the left. This profile is designed to emphasize her finery and all the some of the elegance of the room to be shown, including the garden outside the window behind her. All of this provides the viewer with a "powerful and naturalistic rendering" that asserts a more human than divine interpretation.


The surface of Duccio's Madonna and Child is much cracked but the colors are still vibrant and bold. The frame in which the painting sits is in even worse condition but there appear to be no changes in the medium. In other words, this painting appears very much to be in its original condition and despite the cracks its condition is surprisingly good. There is some discoloration on the frame from smoke from candles likely lit in front of the image, but this discoloration does not affect the painting in any way.

A few cracks are discernable on the surface of Fra Filippo's Portrait but they are fine and do not distract from the overall image. Indeed, they are only really… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Comparison Between Duccio Di Buoninsegna and Fra Filippo Lippi.  (2011, November 16).  Retrieved April 14, 2021, from

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"Comparison Between Duccio Di Buoninsegna and Fra Filippo Lippi."  16 November 2011.  Web.  14 April 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Comparison Between Duccio Di Buoninsegna and Fra Filippo Lippi."  November 16, 2011.  Accessed April 14, 2021.