Giotto (December 2021)

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from the late Medieval period. From Florence, he is generally considered by many as the father of the Italian Renaissance. Unlike the Medieval artists with their flat, decorative, idealized style (figure 1 below), Giotto gave his figures an imposing three-dimensional presence with robust, lifelike figures set in deep space (figure 2 below).

Cimabue [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cimabue [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Madonna Enthroned by Giotto, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Madonna Enthroned by Giotto, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Giotto brought this humanism to one of his greatest works, The Scrovegni or Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy.  The fresco cycle encompassing all the walls of the chapel, recounts the life of the Virgin and Christ.  It was completed in 1305.  The work was commissioned from Giotto by the affluent Paduan banker, Enrico Scrovegni.

Capella degli Scrovegni, which is a church in Padua, Italy
Capella degli Scrovegni, by Giotto, Public Domain, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Giotto’s skill as an artist was so great that when the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill, Giotto drew a red circle so perfect that it seemed as though it was drawn using a pair of compasses and instructed the messenger to send it to the Pope. The messenger left returning to the Pope feeling he had been made a fool of.  The messenger brought the drawing back to the Pope and related how he had made the circle without moving his arm and without the aid of compasses.  The Pope was amazed at Giotto’s skill.


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