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The Healing of the Man born Blind
Duccio
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This painting is from the back of the predella (the bottom tier) of Duccio’s Maestà – a double-sided, five-tiered altarpiece made for the high altar of Siena Cathedral.

It shows Jesus healing a blind man, an episode told in John’s Gospel. Jesus is shown wiping a mixture – made from mud and his own spit – over the man’s eyes. The man carries a stick to guide his steps; when he, shown again at the far right of the picture, washes his face in the nearby pool, he drops his stick and looks up, cured.

Duccio had help from a team of painters to complete the work. He drew the figures and sketched in the architecture but one of his assistants finished off the architecture using a ruler to incise straight lines, which can still be seen if you look closely.

Key facts
Artist Duccio
Artist dates active 1278; died 1319
Full title The Healing of the Man born Blind
Group Maestà Predella Panels
Date made 1307/8-11
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 45.1 x 46.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1883
Inventory number NG1140
Location in Gallery Room 52
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Maestà Predella Panels

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These three small panels come from the altarpiece known as the Maestà (‘Majesty’), made for Siena Cathedral. It is the only surviving signed work by the city’s leading artist, Duccio di Buoninsegna. These paintings formed part of the predella, the lowest part of the altarpiece.

The Maestà was painted on both sides: The Annunciation comes from the front predella, while the Healing of the Man born Blind and the Transfiguration were originally placed next to each other on the back of the predella. The predella itself was shaped like a rectangular box, with images on both sides, providing support for the large, double-sided picture.

When the picture was completed in 1311 it was carried in a festive procession across the streets of Siena to the cathedral, where it was placed above the high altar. There it became the focus of the Siena’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, who was considered the protector of the city.

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