Sienese, active from 1315; died 1344
Simone di Martino
Copy-and-paste citation text:
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Simone Martini,” NGA Online Editions, https://purl.org/nga/collection/constituent/1875 (accessed September 16, 2021).
Export as PDF
|Mar 21, 2016 Version|
Probably born in Siena, perhaps in 1284 according to uncertain information transmitted by
In 1324, Simone married Giovanna, daughter of the painter Memmo di Filippuccio and sister of
As shown by his fresco of the Maestà (which we now know was begun at least one year before 1315, and reworked in 1321) and some other works probably of earlier date, by that time Simone had already emerged as a fully independent and highly innovative artist who had broken away from the prevailing Duccesque manner of painting in Siena. An attentive observer of the courtly refinement of masterpieces of the transalpine Gothic, especially miniatures and goldsmiths’ work, and also of the sinuous arabesques of Sienese sculptors such as Lorenzo Maitani, Simone was also influenced by the pictorial realism cultivated by
 Giorgio Vasari concluded his biography of Simone in both editions of his Vite by transcribing the epitaph that he claims to have read above the artist’s tomb: “SIMONI MEMMIO PICTORUM OMNIS AETATIS CELEBERRIMO VIX AN. LX. MEN. II D. III”; see Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori nelle redazioni del 1550 e 1568, ed. Rosanna Bettarini and Paola Barocchi, 6 vols. (Florence, 1966–1987), 2(1967):200. The epitaph attests that the painter died at the age of sixty; since the date of his death in 1344 is documented, that would mean he was born in 1284. But the fact that the inscription (as well as Vasari) cites the patronymic derived from the artist’s brother-in-law rather than the correct patronymic “Martini” casts doubt on its reliability.
 In two of his sonnets (nos. 77 and 78), the great poet praises the art of Simone; Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere, ed. Marco Santagata (Milan, 1996), 400, 404. Moreover, on the frontispiece of the codex in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana containing works of Virgil with commentary by Servius (also called Servius Honoratus; Ms. A 79 inf.), a manuscript that Petrarch himself had owned, the poet added the following hexameters: “Mantua Virgilium qui talia carmina finxit / Sena tulit Symonem digito qui talia pinxit.”
 On the time frame for the execution of the work, cf. Alessandro Bagnoli, La Maestà di Simone Martini (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 1999), 47 – 65.
 Of the various, often fanciful proposals made in the attempt to reconstruct the still evanescent profile of the young Simone, the most convincing attributions are the Madonna and Child no. 583 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena and the designs for the stained-glass windows in the chapel of Saint Martin in the lower church of the basilica of San Francesco in Assisi. The latter work probably was completed even before the frescoes in the same chapel were begun.
 Usually the art of Simone is placed in relation to sculptors like Giovanni Pisano and Agostino di Giovanni or Tino di Camaino; cf. Antje Middeldorf Kosegarten, “Simone Martini e la scultura senese contemporanea,” in Simone Martini: Atti del convegno, Siena, March 27 – 29, 1985, ed. Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1988), 193 – 202; and Gert Kreytenberg, “Tino di Camaino e Simone Martini,” in Simone Martini: Atti del convegno; Siena, March 27 – 29, 1985, ed. Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1988), 203 – 209. The most exquisitely Gothic of Sienese sculptors and capomastro of Orvieto Cathedral, Lorenzo Maitani is mentioned more rarely in the literature on Simone and only in relation to the master’s work in Orvieto; cf. Pierluigi Leone De Castris, Simone Martini (Milan, 2003), 188. However, it is possible that the acquaintance between the painter and the sculptor-architect had been established far earlier than this, both because Maitani too was Sienese and also through the intermediary of Giovanni di Bonino, the glassmaker from Assisi who is documented as having worked on the building site of Orvieto Cathedral and probably had been involved in the execution of the stained glass in the lower church of the basilica of Assisi; cf. Miklós Boskovits, “Da Duccio a Simone Martini,” in Medioevo: La chiesa e il palazzo; Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Parma, September 20 – 24, 2005, ed. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle (Milan, 2007), 577.
 The circumstance that the stained-glass windows have been attributed in the past by Ferdinando Bologna, Novità su Giotto: Giotto al tempo della cappella Peruzzi (Turin, 1969), 152 – 153; Giuseppe Marchini, Corpus vitrearum Medii Aevi, vol. 1, Le vetrate dell’Umbria (Rome, 1973), 118 – 129; Luciano Bellosi, Buffalmacco e il Trionfo della morte (Turin, 1974), 102 n. 46; and the present writer, Miklós Boskovits, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting: The Fourteenth Century, sec. 3, vol. 9, The Miniaturist Tendency (Florence, 1984), 319 – 321, to the Master of Figline (alias Master of the Fogg Pietà), one of the most powerfully original disciples of Giotto, suggests the existence of rather close relations between these artists. After some tentative proposals in the past on the role of Simone in the execution of the stained glass in the chapel of Saint Martin, Alessandro Conti directly attributed the work to the great Sienese artist; the more recent literature shares his opinion. See Alessandro Conti, “Le vetrate e il problema di Giovanni di Bonino,” in Il Maestro di Figline: Un pittore del Trecento, eds. Luciano Bellosi and Alessandro Conti (Florence, 1980), 24, 25.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016