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Giotto di Bondone

Giotto y la Pintura del Trecento

Portrait of Il Giotto.
Full Name: Giotto di Bondone.
Nationality: Italy.
Year of Birth: 1267, Florence, Italy.
Year of Death: 1337, Florence, Italy.
Style: Trecento Painting, Precursor of the later Renaissance.

Giotto di Bondone, as narrated by Vasari in his “vite”, was found by Cimabue painting on a rock the sheep of his father’s flock. Seeing the young man's natural talent, Cimabue took him as an apprentice, which later helped Giotto to surpass the master and transcend an entire culture with his pictorial technique.

Giotto became so famous that he was entrusted with numerous works in the art centers of the time: Assisi, Siena, Bologna, Rome, Naples, etc. Giotto's influence would be seen throughout the Trecento.

  • "Crocifisso di Santa Maria Novella", Il Giotto.

Giotto was concerned with the three-dimensionality of space, the volume of characters, and the gestures of faces and hands. His fondness for bright and luminous colors led him to mix blues, reds, greens, whites, earth tones, and blacks in the same work. The narrative character of his works means that the scenes are full of detail.

  • "Maestà di Ognissanti", Il Giotto.

After his first 3 years of training, Giotto moved to Assisi with Cimabue, with whom he painted some frescoes in the Upper Basilica. Among these, it is known that he painted scenes from the life of St. Francis (28 paintings) in which he describes the main events of his life: From his youth, The expulsion of the demons from the city of Arezzo, the sermon to the birds or the Stigmatization, to his death and the main miracles after it. Giotto displays a style very different from his master, as shown in scenes like the following:

  • "Approval of the Franciscan Order by Pope Innocent III", Il Giotto.

Historical Context of Giotto

At the beginning of the 14th century, the Pope moved to Avignon, causing Rome to lose its leading role in society, and of course in art. Assisi became a new artistic epicenter, especially in painting. Siena and Florence also became centers of importance and the seats of the two most important pictorial schools of the Middle Ages.

  • "Lamentation over the Dead Christ", Il Giotto.

In painting, the process of transformation and breaking away from the Byzantine tradition began already at the end of the Duecento, led by Pietro Cavallini. But it is at the beginning of the Trecento that the break becomes definitive. Innovations become imminent through the hands of Duccio in Siena and Cimabue in Florence, but especially the latter's disciple: Giotto. He is the true introducer of the new pictorial technique, creating a new treatment of space, and achieving a new social consideration of art and artists.

  • "Flight to Egypt", Il Giotto.

Among the scenes from the same cycle of Saint Francis, the one corresponding to the expulsion of demons from Arezzo stands out, a clear example of the heroic treatment the saint receives. Another example of the same heroic exaltation can be “Ecstasy” or the “Stigmatization”.

Scrovegni Chapel

A few years later, Giotto is in Padua where he paints the frescoes inside the Scrovegni or "Arena" Chapel. The chapel was built by order of the banker Enrico Scrovegni, to expiate his sins. The name of the Arena comes from its proximity to the Roman amphitheater “Arena of Padua”.

  • "Scrovegni Chapel", Il Giotto.

The frescoes that run along the single nave of the chapel are 40 scenes from the life of Christ and the life of the Virgin Mary, concluding the iconographic program with a scene of the Last Judgment on the western wall. The set is completed in the nave's vault by a starry sky with medallions.

The cycle of the life of the Virgin covers the upper parts of the walls, where the kiss of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne near the gate of Jerusalem, the birth of the virgin, and the espousals of Saint Joseph and the Virgin stand out. In the scene of the espousals, we find the essential characteristics of Giotto's painting, already seen in Assisi. The three-dimensionality, shown with greater maturity in the treatment of volumes and colors, and also Giotto delves into the psychological characterization of the characters through the individualization of their postures and gestures.

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