Cimabue Paints his Maestà for the Santa Trinità Church

The picture originally stood on the high altar of Santa Trinità church in Florence.

The iconography is frequent in medieval painting and represents the Madonna enthroned with Child and angels, a pattern commonly said Maestà as shows the Virgin as Queen of Paradise. In the lower part are four biblical figures, symbolizing foundations of Christ's kingdom: the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah under lateral arches, Abraham and King David under the chair of the throne.

Noted as the last Italian painter of the Byzantine style, Cenni di Pepo, called Cimabue, is also credited with progressing art towards the naturalism seen in early Renaissance painting. The great biographer of Italian artists, Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) endears Cimabue as the foundation of Italian painting and is literally chapter one of his work, The Lives of Artists (first published in 1550).

Cimabue’s inkling towards naturalism started early on, as Vasari notes of his youth, “…instead of paying attention to his literary studies, Cimabue, as if inspired by his nature, spent the whole day drawing men, horses, houses and various other fantasies in his books and papers. Still, Vasari took much creative license with Cimabue’s life and much of it was proven untrue by modern critics, but the artist survives in bringing a more human side to the last days of Byzantine art.