Simone Martini

  • Martini was an Italian painter from Siena.
  • He was a pupil of the Byzantine painter, Duccio di Buoninsegna.
  • Martini’s linear style of painting was a major influence on the development of International Gothic painting.
  • The Annunciation is his most famous work and is considered to be the epitome of his style.


The Annunciation, 1333

The Annunciation painting was originally created for the altar of St Ansanus in the Cathedral of Siena. It is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Subject matter:
The Annunciation is a story from the Book of Luke in the Bible. It tells of the moment that the archangel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary in order to tell her that she would give birth to the son of God

The altarpiece is made up of three panels, divided by pillars and arches. Mary and the angel Gabriel occupy the central panel. The side panels contain St Ansanus (left) and St Margaret (right). Mary sits on a throne on the right hand side of the central panel as the angel Gabriel kneels before her. The figures are set against a plain gold leaf* background. Angel Gabriel has wings and is holding a branch from Paradise. In between the Virgin Mary and the angel are white lilies, which are a symbol of purity, often associated with Mary.

The figures appear flat and elongated. Their faces and proportions are idealised. The folds in their drapery offer some sense of form and weight. Mary’s pose is graceful and sentimental, typical of the International Gothic style.

Technique and materials:
The wooden panel would have been created by a member of the carpenters’ guild. Before painting the wood was prepared with a layer of linen and more than eight coats of gesso which is a  white primer made from a binder with white chalk, gypsum and pigment. The gesso was smoothed before painting and the outline of figures and the folds in drapery were incised into the smooth surface. Gold leaf (gold which has been hammered down to a very thin sheet) was applied over several coats of a pigment from red-brown clay, known as 'red bole', and which was bound in egg white.

The gold was burnished and designs were incised into it. The drapery was painted before the flesh. All flesh areas under painted in green earth and lead white. Over time the pigments have faded exposing this green under paint. Details were reinforced with black. This technique is simply known as 'Panel Painting'.


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