The entrance to Jerusalem painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna


ingresso gerusalemme duccio buoninsegna

The Entry into Jerusalem, one of the panels of the Maestà

The Entrata a Gerusalemme (Entrance to Jerusalem) is one of the panels that Duccio di Buoninsegna painted for the Stories of Christ, inside the great Maestà for the Cathedral of Siena. What can be defined as a real altar machine is considered the largest altarpiece made in the history of Italian art.

The image before the faithful was the monumental figure of the Virgin enthroned, flanked by saints, including the four protectors of Siena, together with others associated with Sienese devotion.

Although the panels with the stories of Christ form a unicum in the tradition of the illustrated life of Christ purview – thanks to the memory, among the older generations, of these illustrated images on religious texts that were used and perhaps are still used today in the Italian school – few think they can relate those scenes so ‘familiar’ in Italian culture with the great Sienese polyptych.

Entrance to Jerusalem, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

This undoubtedly happens due to having memorised the illustrations of the life of Christ in a dissociated way from the large central altarpiece of the Virgin enthroned.

This mental separation corresponds, alas, to a physical separation as well, since today the panels of the stories of Christ, including the one with the Entrance to Jerusalem painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna, are no longer connected to the large panel of the Maestà.

The iconographic richness of the Sienese painter’s work was once such that the numerous panels of the stories of Christ, as well as of the Virgin, were not thought to be the predella, but included in a different retable, which was in any case connected to the bigger panel of the Virgin since it was its back.

This B side of the stories from Christ life was therefore placed on a side not usually seen by the faithful, since it had his back to the altar.

The scene of the Entrance to Jerusalem represents the well-known evangelical episode in which Christ enters the holy city on the back of a donkey, while followers welcome the entry of the Messiah exultantly, spreading carpets as he passes. Note that, for this scene, Duccio has used twice the space of the panels which in the other cases have a square shape.

Returns to the Siena of that time

The greater verticality is exploited here by the painter to give more space to the representation of a landscape which is an urban context and which has various references to the architecture of contemporary Siena; a detail of great relevance for the painter is the arch of the large entrance gate to the city of Jerusalem which constitutes an element of a gate that Duccio had well in mind…

This and many other elements of the Entrance to Jerusalem can be commented on through a guided tour of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, in which we will reconstruct all the artistic and historic events of the masterpiece which is the Maestà painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna