Don’t forget to click on each work of art to see it in all its beauty!
This was a difficult decision since the G’s are heavily populated with Renaissance artists (Ghiberti and Ghirlandio, for example).
Giotto, Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 –1337), was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. Recent research suggests he was a born in Florence, the son of a blacksmith. Giotto was his real name, probably an abbreviation of Ambrogio (Ambrogiotto). Vasari wrote that Giotto was discovered by the renowned Florentine painter Cimabue , drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock and that Cimabue asked Giotto’s father if he could take the boy as an apprentice. It is not known if Giotto was really Cimabue’s pupil, but Giotto’s early art shares many qualities with Roman paintings and Cimabue was working in Rome in this period.
From Rome, Cimabue went to Assisi, where he painted several large frescoes in the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. Whether or not Giotto assisted in the fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis in the basilica is hotly disputed. In the absence of documentary evidence to the contrary, every fresco in the church that was not obviously painted by Cimabue has been ascribed to Giotto. Compare St. Francis Preaching to the Birds with the Madonna Enthroned painted by Cimabue. Note that Giotto’s human and animal figures are realistic and the scene clearly shows St. Francis’ gentle spirit.
Sometime around 1305 Giotto painted a series of frescoes in the Arena
Chapel in Padua, illustrating the lives of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary. The chapel itself is totally unadorned except for Giotto’s painting.
Each wall is arranged in three tiers of narrative frescoes, beginning with scenes from the life of the Virgin, continuing through the Pentecost. The figures show emotional intensity and appear sculptural in
natural space. The panels are noted for their emotional intensity; The Kiss of Judas is especially gripping.
Giotto returned to Assisi, where he painted frescoes in the Lower Church and Maddalena Chapel and the style demonstrates developments his work. He moved back and forth from Florence to Rome through 1347, following his commissions and adorning the walls with his luminous frescoes.
Particularly notable during this time is Ognissanti Madonna painted for the Church of the Ognissanti (Church of All Saints in Florence and the Stefaneschi Triptych (1350), now in the Vatican Museum. The latter was done in egg tempera on a panel. Egg tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder, such as egg yolk; it was the primary method of painting until after 1500, when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting.
In 1134, Giotto was appointed the chief architect of the Florence Cathedral and designed the bell tower or Campanile. His last known work is the decoration of Podestà Chapel in Florence, where he painted a portrait of Dante Alighieri, with great realism compared to the canonical faces painted by other artists at the time.
Giotto died in January 1337 and according to Vasari, was buried in the cathedral of Florence.
Postscript: During an excavation in the 1970s, bones were discovered close to the location of Giotto’s tomb as given by Vasari. The bones contained a range of chemicals, including arsenic and lead, both commonly found in paint, and were those of a very short man with a very large head, a large hooked nose and one eye more prominent than the other. The bones of the neck indicated that the man spent a lot of time with his head tilted backwards. The front teeth were worn in a way consistent with frequently holding a brush between the teeth. The bones were reburied as Giotto’s, near the grave of Brunelleschi.