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Matteo da Sienna

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(Matteo di Giovanni di Bartolo).

Painter, born at Borgo San Sepolcro, c. 1435; died 1495. His common appellation was derived from his having worked chiefly in the city of Siena. In the fourteenth century the masters of the Sienese school rivalled the Florentine painters ; in the fifteenth, the former school, resisting the progress achieved at Florence, allowed itself to be outstripped by its rival. Although in this period it gives the impression of a superannuated art, Sienese painting still charms with its surviving line traditional qualities -- its sincerity of feeling, the refined grace of its figures, its attention to minutiae of dress and of architectural background, and its fascinating frankness of execution. Of these qualities Matteo has his share, but he is furthermore dlstinguished by the dignity of his female figures, the gracious presence of his angels, and the harmony of a colour scheme at once rich and brilliant. For this reason critics pronounce him the best of the fifteenth century Sienese painters. The earliest authentic work of Matteo is dated 1470, a Virgin enthroned, with angels, painted for the Servites, and now in the Academy of Siena. In 1487 he executed for the high altar of Santa Maria de' Servi del Borgo -- the Servite church of his native village -- an "Assumption" with the Apostles and other saints looking on; on the predella he has painted the history of the Blessed Virgin. According to G. Milanesi (in his edition of Vasari, II, Florence, 1878, p. 493, note 3), the main portion of this painting is still to be seen in the church, while the lateral portions have been removed to the sacristy. Some other Madonnas of his, deserve particular mention: one in the Palazzo Tolomei at Siena, the Virgin and Infant Jesus painted, in 1484 for the city palace of Sienna, on a pilaster in the hall decorated by Spinello Aretino; in the duomo of Pienza, a Virgin and Child enthroned between St. Mathew and St. Catherine, St. Bartholomew and St. Luke. On the lunette Matteo painted the Flagellation, and on the predella three medallions -- "Ecce Homo", the Virgin, and an Evangelist. The signature reads : "Opus Mathei Johannis de Senis". As decoration for the pavement of the cathedral of Sienna, he designed three subjects : "The Sibyl of Samos ", "The Deliverance of Bethulia ", and "The Massacre of the Innocents".

In 1477 he painted his "Madonna della Neve" (Our Lady of Snow), for the church under that invocation at Sienna. On comparing this with the Servite Madonna of 1470, it is seen to surpass the earlier work in beauty of types, symmetry of proportions, and colour-tone. The St. Barbara , a composition made for the church of San Domenico at Siena, is also remarkable work: two angels are gracefully laying a crown on the saint's head, while others, accompanied by St. Mary Magdalen and St. Catherine of Alexandria and playing instruments, surround her. When Matteo treats subjects involving lively action, he loses a great deal of his power. The incidental scenes are combined in a confused way, the expression of feeling is forced, and degenerates into grimace, and the general result is affected and caricature-like.

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