Simone’s projected date of birth
is based on a 16th-century source, but may well be accurate, even though
the date of his first signed work, the fresco of the Maestà
in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, is a relatively late 1316. The stylistic
diversity of his works is so wide that it has proved impossible so far
to table their chronology. It is not inconceivable, for example, that the
in Siena, the devotional panels comprising the Orsini Polyptych, (The
Annunciation, The Road to Calvary, The Crucifixion,
Deposition, The Entombment
the altarpieces in an old fashioned style which he executed for Pisa and
Orvieto, are all in fact contemporaneous. Though it is necessary to mention
that some art historians date Orsini Polyptych to later period, c.
1335-44. Whatever the case, Simone’s works indicate that he had studied
and French art with the same intensity. He also drew inspiration from his
sculptor colleagues, and in particular Giovanni Pisano.
We can be certain
that, by c. 1315, Simone must have already been a famous master. Otherwise
it is most unlikely that he would have been awarded the Maestà commission
in Siena. Nor would we find him, in 1317, being paid an astonishingly high
salary in the service of Robert d’Anjou, who even raised him to the nobility.
The Angevin Kings of Naples and their supporters were his major patrons
during these years. Together with his large workshop, he also worked for
the City of Siena and various other clients in central Italy.
In 1317-19, Simone
decorated the St. Martin Chapel in San Francesco, Assisi. The decoration
of the Lower church in Assisi was funded by a donation from a Franciscan
cardinal, Montefiori, who died in 1312. The cardinal had been an ardent
supporter of the house of Anjou, in whose service he had helped with the
acquisition of Hungary. The cycle comprises ten scenes from the life of
St. Martin, starting with the episode in which he divides his cloak with
the beggar and finishing with his death. Despite its church setting, the
cycle is a work of court art; painted by Simone Martini, himself ennobled
while in Anjou service, it glorifies the French ruling house through the
figure of St. Martin, who had close connections with both France and Hungary.
Simone introduced some of
the most significant innovations in the genre of the devotional panel,
such as the so-called Madonna dell’Umiltá (Mary kneeling and at
the same time suckling the Child). From 1339 at the latest he is documented
in Avignon, where he worked for Cardinal Stefaneschi and other senior clergymen.
While he left a school of followers both in Siena and Avignon, some of
his achievements became the common property of all 14th-century art. Already
highly praised in his lifetime – including by Petrarch, for whom he executed
several works – his fame lived on not only in Siena, where in the early
15th century he was considered the greatest Sienese painter of all, but
also, for a long time, north of the Alps. With Simone, the Sienese example
spread across the austere Gothic painting of the North and had a lasting
effect in France.
The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture. Painting.
Drawing. Könemann. 1995.
Monumental Painting of Italian Renaissance by I. Smirnova. Moscow.
Martini by Enrico Castelnuovo. Riverside Book Company, 1990.
Martini Complete Edition by Andrew Martindale. Phaidon Press,