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Simone Martini (Siena, Italy, 1284 – Avignon, France, 1344) was the son of a certain Martino who is only known to have lived in the Sant’Egidio neighborhood and who had another The son who was also a painter, Donato, in addition, the father had to entrust them to Memmo di Filipuccio was one of the great Trecento painters in Italy. He was a leading figure in the development of early Italian painting and strongly influenced the development of the international Gothic style. It is part of the Sienese school, to which also belonged the great painters Duccio di Buoninsegna, Lippo Memmi and the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. He was the most renowned teacher among the painters of the Trecento in the domain of color. Essential elements of his aesthetics are his taste for line and the admirable calligraphy of the miniaturists of the School of Miniaturists in Paris.
Painting was the favorite art of the city of Siena, whose school of painters rivaled that of Florence. During the first years of the fourteenth century, through a way of painting inspired by the models and technique of the maniera greca, differentiated, therefore, from Giotto and the Florentine school, the Siena painters managed to formulate the theme of the pictorial space. The style of the Sienese school and of Simone Martini was manifested in the affectation and stylization of the figures, as well as in the use of golden ornamental backgrounds and a range of subjective color that provide a remarkable lyrical expressiveness to the compositions. Regarding the style, it is reminiscent of Duccio, as are the type of the Virgin, with pale skin, oblique eyes and long nose. It also has infiltrations of Giotto, such are shown in the frescoes of the life of San Martin, made in a chapel of Assisi.
The place and date of his birth is unknown, although it is likely that he saw the light in Siena around 1285. It is believed that Martini was a student of Giotto di Bondone, the most prominent Florentine painter of his time, that continues to Rome. When he dies, he continues his style when making a Virgin Mary in the portal of San Pedro, in addition to the figures of San Pablo and San Pedro. His brother-in-law was the artist Lippo Memmi. Survives very little documentation in relation to his time, and many attributions are debated by art historians. Nothing is known of his adolescence, nor of who his teachers were, although he was undoubtedly an apprentice from an early age, as would be normal practice.
His life, then, remains in absolute darkness until in 1315 he is commissioned to paint frescoes for a Maestà for the Palazzo Público in Siena or the city hall of Siena. This commission suggests that at that time Martini already enjoyed great prestige, comparable to that of Duccio di Buoninsegna, whose Maestà had been enthusiastically received just a few years before (1311). In his hometown, then, Simone Martini had several commissions. A copy of his Maestà, executed shortly after by Lippo Memmi in San Gimignano, testifies to the enduring influence that Simone’s prototypes would have on other artists throughout the 14th century. Perpetuating the Sienese tradition, Simone’s style contrasted with the sobriety and monumentality of Florentine art, and stands out for its decorative features, soft, stylized, the sinuosity of the line and a courtly elegance not exceeded. Simone’s art owes much to the illumination of French manuscripts and the carving of ivory: examples of such art were taken to Siena in the fourteenth century through the Via Francigena, a major trade and pilgrimage route from Northern Europe to Rome.
The King of Naples, Robert of Anjou, in the year 1317, invited him to the court to paint the coronation ceremony granting him an annual allocation of fifty ounces of gold. Of this time it is considered that it is San Luis de Tolosa crowning to Robert of Anjou, king of Naples.
In 1321 he returned to Siena to restore his Maesta that had deteriorated. With his brother and assistant he bought a house in the parish of Sant’Egidio, he painted a Crucifixion and various frescoes, now missing, for the Palazzo Pubblico. In 1326 he works on a painting, also disappeared, for the Palazzo del Capitano. Finally in 1328 he painted the fresco with the equestrian portrait of Captain Giudoriccio da Fogliano at the Palazzo Publico.
In the year 1324 he married a girl named Giovanna, daughter of the painter Memmo de Fillippuccio and sister of the painter Lippo Memmi who will eventually be Martini’s best-known disciple.
Like most of the great painters of his time, he worked in the basilicas of Assisi. On a date before 1326, the Franciscan Gentile di Partino da Montefiore commissioned him to decorate the San Martin Chapel in the basilica of Assisi with frescoes, a fundamental work where Martini takes up the subject of the pictorial space b) the domain of which he was already a teacher, as shown in the portrait of Giudoriccio da Fogliano. In these frescoes he used mainly the ocher colors that were also widely used by Duccio and the Lorenzetti brothers and that have been associated forever with the city of Siena: the “natural siena” and the “toasted sienna”, which were extracted from some lands of color coming from the Tuscan countryside.
In 1333, together with his brother-in-law Lippo Memmi executed and signed the triptych of the Annunciation of the Cathedral of Siena, currently in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Memmi signed the two lateral saints. The central panel, by Martini, is considered the crowning work of the painting of the Sienese school.
Around 1340, accompanied by his wife, his brother Donato and Lippo Memmi, at the invitation of Cardinal Jacobo Stefaneschi he moved to Avignon. In the Papal court he works in various orders for the Palace of the Popes. In this city he meets and befriends the great poet Petrarca for whom he makes the miniature of Virgil’s Allegory of the frontispiece of the Codex Virgilianus.
He spent many years in the court of the Popes of Avignon, working on a series of works that have largely been lost. The position of the city of Avignon as the seat of one of the main courts of Europe and the fact that its style was more familiar in France than the innovations of Giotto and the Florentine school, accentuated its influence on all painting schools on board or of miniatures, both French and Flemish, so that their impact on the history of painting was decisive for the diffusion of the so-called international Gothic style. On June 10, 1344, he writes his will. He died probably on July 9 of that year, while he was in the service of the papal court in Avignon. After his death, his brother-in-law Lippo Memmi was in charge of finishing the works he had left unfinished. In Simone’s grave the following epitaph was written: Simoni Memmio pictorum omnium omnis ætatis celeberrimo. Vitix ann. LX, mens. II, d. III.
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