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Simone Martini

Born: c. 1284
Birthplace: Siena, Italy
Died: 1344
Location of death: Avignon, Provence, France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Painter

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Sienese school painter

Sienese painter, called also Simone di Martino, and more commonly, but not correctly, Simon Memmi, was born in 1283. He followed the manner of painting proper to his native Siena, as improved by Duccio, which is essentially different from the style of Giotto and his school, and the idea that Simone was himself a pupil of Giotto is therefore wide of the mark. The Sienese style is less natural, dignified and reserved than the Florentine; it has less unity of impression, has more tendency to pietism, and is marked by exaggerations which are partly related to the obsolescent Byzantine manner, and partly seem to forebode certain peculiarities of the fully developed art which we find prevalent in Michelangelo. Simone, in particular, tended to an excessive and rather affected tenderness in his female figures; he was more successful in single figures and in portraits than in large compositions of incident. He finished with scrupulous minuteness, and was elaborate in decorations of patterning, gilding, etc.

The first known fresco of Simone is the vast one which he executed in the hall of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena -- the Madonna Enthroned, with the Infant, and a number of angels and saints; its date is 1315, at which period he was already an artist of repute throughout Italy. In S. Lorenzo Maggiore of Naples he painted a life-sized picture of King Robert crowned by his brother Lewis, bishop of Toulouse; this also is extant, but much damaged. In 1320 he painted for the high altar of the church of S. Caterina in Pisa the Virgin and Child between six saints; above are archangels, apostles and other figures. The compartmented portions of this work are now dispersed, some of them being in the academy of Siena. Towards 1321 he executed for the church of S. Domenico in Orvieto a picture of the bishop of Savona kneeling before the Madonna attended by saints, now in the Fabriceria of the cathedral. Certain frescoes in Assisi in the chapel of San Martino, representing the life of that saint, ascribed by Giorgio Vasari to Puccio Capanna, are now, upon internal evidence, assigned to Simone. He painted also, in the south transept of the lower church of the same edifice, figures of the Virgin and eight saints. In 1328 he produced for the sala del consilio in Siena a striking equestrian portrait of the victorious general Guidoriccio Fogliani de Ricci.

Simone had married in 1324 Giovanna, the daughter of Memmo (Guglielmo) di Filippuccio. Her brother, named Lippo Memmi, was also a painter, and was frequently associated with Simone in his work; and this is the only reason why Simone has come down to us with the family-name Memmi. They painted together in 1333 the Annunciation which is now in the Uffizi gallery. Simone kept a bottega (or shop), undertaking any ornamental work, and his gains were large. In 1339 he settled at the papal court in Avignon, where he made the acquaintance of Petrarch and Laura; and he painted for the poet a portrait of his lady, which gave occasion for two of Petrarch's sonnets, in which Simone is eulogized. He also illuminated for the poet a copy of the commentary of Servius upon Virgil, now preserved in the Ambrosian library of Milan. He was largely employed in the decorations of the papal buildings in Avignon, and several of his works still remain -- in the cathedral, in the hall of the consistory, and, in the two chapels of the palace, the stories of the Baptist, and of Stephen and other saints. One of his latest productions (1342) is the picture of Christ Found by his Parents in the Temple, now in the Liverpool Gallery. Simone died in Avignon in July 1344.

Some of the works with which Simone's name and fame have been generally identified are not now regarded as his. Such are the compositions, in the Campo Santo of Pisa, from the legend of S. Ranieri, and the Assumption of the Virgin; and the great frescoes in the Cappellone degli Spagnuoli, in S. Maria Novella, Florence, representing the Triumph of Religion through the work of the Dominican order, etc.

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