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The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, 1308-1311
tempera on poplar panel (cradled)
Overall: 17 x 18 1/8 in. (43.2 x 46 cm)
Purchased by The Frick Collection, 1927
Accession number: 1927.1.35
Enamels Room (132)
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The original arrangement of the panels on the altarpiece and the question of what part assistants played in executing this radically innovative work are problems that may never be resolved. But Duccio himself must have been the guiding genius who designed the novel range of settings and compositions and who infused the familiar subjects with new drama and emotion.
In the Frick panel, a majestically towering Christ is shown rejecting the devil, who offers Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if Christ will worship him (Matthew 4:8–11). Duccio retains medieval conventions in depicting the figures as large and the spurned kingdoms as small, thus suggesting a scale of values rather than naturalistic proportions. Yet the story is presented in terms that are immediately meaningful. Christ expresses a sorrowful solemnity, and the cities in the foreground — packed with turrets, domes, and crenellations — vividly evoke the festive colors and crowded hill-sites of Siena.
Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.
Source: Paintings in The Frick Collection: French, Italian and Spanish. Volume II. New York: The Frick Collection, 1968.