Professor Michael Godby will discuss Duccio’s famous fourteenth century altarpiece, Maesta, at the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts’ Great Texts public lecture series. This lecture will take place on Thursday 3 October at 17:30 at UCT’s Hiddingh Hall.

On the 9th of June 1311, Duccio’s Maesta (or Madonna and Child in Majesty) was taken by a full assembly of citizens through the streets of Siena and installed on the high altar of the cathedral. This act of devotion effectively renewed the dedication of the city to the Virgin, the principal subject of the main panel. But, like all other Madonna and Childpaintings, the Maesta also represented the Incarnation – the miracle, as Christians believe, of divinity taking on human form in order to redeem humankind from original sin. The image of the Madonna, therefore, is complex, involving not only votive significance expressed in both material richness and artistic skill, but also a fine balance in the figures of mother and child between their appearance as human actors and their status as the embodiment of theological truth.

This lecture, Maesta: Mediaeval, Modern, Marvellous, explores the appearance of these ideas in both the main Maestapanel itself and the many narrative panels in the altarpiece that depict the story of Jesus. Professor Godby will also highlight the parallels between the procession to the cathedral, which united the religious and secular powers in Siena, and the telling of the Christian story in the Maesta.

Michael Godby is Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Cape Town. He has published and lectured on Early Renaissance Art, English Eighteenth-century Art, particularly William Hogarth, Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century South African Art, and the History of South African Photography. Professor Godby has curated several exhibitions on South African art, notably Is there Still Life? Continuity and Change in South African Still Life Painting (2007) and The Lie of the Land: Representations of the South African Landscape (2010). He is currently preparing a collection of papers for a book on the History of photography in South Africa; and is planning a new exhibition on the theme of the Interior in European and South African Painting.

Great Texts lectures will take place on Thursdays from 26 September to 10 October 2013. This lecture will take place on Thursday 3 October at 17:30 at Hiddingh Hall, University of Cape Town (UCT) Hiddingh Campus, Orange Street, Cape Town; and is free. Refreshments will be served from 17:00; no booking is necessary.

Godby’s lecture will be followed by the screening of the Puma Films4Peace – commissioned short films by six acclaimed artists around the subject of peace: Rob Carter, Wilmer Wilson IV, Athi-Patra Ruga, Zanele Muholi, Anthony Goicolea, and Assume Vivid Astro Focus. For more information on the Great Texts series, contact the GIPCA office on 021 480 7156 or

Michael Godby audio recording available for download.