Duccio had the skills to pay the bills when it came to painting devils. I like the cut of his jib.
Anyone know what the angels are doing in this scene? Mark telescopes the account, writing that Jesus was tempted by Satan, was with wild beasts, and angels waited on him. Matthew brings in the angels, who wait on Jesus, after Satan departs. Luke leaves the angels out. The angels in Duccio’s painting do not appear to be waiting on Jesus. Does the artist suggest that it took two angels to help Jesus withstand the temptation of one devil?
My “reading” of the painting is that, as Satan is departing, the angels are approaching to minister to Jesus, adding to the sense of movement.
Apropos of Duccio and Lenten/Holy Week reading, my favorite work by Henri Nouwen is entitled, “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life.” There is an edition from Orbis Books that has lovely reproductions of scenes from Duccio’s Maestà altarpiece, from which the “Temptation of Christ” also comes. I have given copies as attractive and substantive spiritual reading.
Admittedly, it is all in the eye of the beholder, and I will grant your interpretation, Father. I, however, do not see much movement in the painting at all. Satan’s legs are parallel to one another in a firmly planted stance rather than what I would expect in movement. Also he is not looking in the direction where one might expect he would be looking, were he leaving the scene. Rather, he is looking squarely at Jesus with one hand raised looking rather attentive to what Jesus is saying. Looks to me like they are in the midst of that part of the temptation about worldly kingdoms. Jesus looks like he is responding to Satan. But your response did help me to see the role of the angels. They exemplify what Jesus says in Matthew, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” This may be the reason why three of their hands are covered. In my opinion, Duccio had Matthew’s Gospel in mind.
My sense is that Jesus’ “response” to satan is to begone. He must obey, so he turns to go, but he can’t help but continue to look on his prey/master, knowing he’ll get another shot, but having his hopes to have made inroads dashed.
I see more thanks to both your “readings.” Here is a brief introduction to the Maestà:
“Duccio’s famous Maestà was commissioned by the Siena Cathedral in 1308 and it was completed in 1311. Today most of this elaborate double-sided altarpiece is in the cathedral museum but several of the predella panels are scattered outside Italy in various museums. It is probably the most important panel ever painted in Italy; it is certainly among the most beautiful. Compressed within the compass of an altarpiece is the equivalent of an entire programme for the fresco painting of a church.
The whole of the front of the main panel is occupied by a scene of the Virgin and Child in majesty surrounded by angels and saints, and corresponding to this on the back there are twenty-six scenes from Christ’s Passion. Originally there were subsidiary scenes from Christ’s life above and below the main panel. The whole work is a superb standard of craftsmanship, and the exquisite colouring and supple draughtsmanship create effects of great beauty.”