Giotto – Painter and Architect (1267-1337)

Giotto da Bondone was the greatest italian painter before Renaissance. Initiator of a new figurative art style, oriented towards naturalistic and humanistic subjects, in opposition with Byzantine rigidity. He was revolutionary and an inspiration for all the later Italian Renaissance artists. 

Giotto di Bondone
Giotto di Bondone

image source: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/giotto

 


LIFE 

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence. He’s believed to have been a pupil of the Florentine painter Cimabue and to have decorated chapels in Assisi, RomePadua, Florence, and Naples with frescoes and panel paintings in tempera. Because little of his life and few of his works are documented, attribution and a stylistic chronology of his paintings remain problematic and often highly speculative.


info source: http://www.giottodibondone.org/

Giovanni Dupré , Giotto (detail), 1845, Statue in Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Giovanni Dupré , Giotto (detail), 1845, Statue in Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcpig/2097446243

WHAT WERE HIS MAJOR WORKS? 

Around 1290 in Florence Giotto realizes the large and beautiful Cross of Santa Maria Novella, that definitely breaks with former painting. Giotto’s Christ is no longer an icon but a man crucified. He also paints the enchanting Polypthic of Badia (1301-1304), today at the Uffizi Gallery. Later on Giotto goes to Padua and frescoes the Scrovegni Chapel that represents an unbearable masterpiece in art history. The fresco cycle depicts the Life of Anna and Joachim, of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus Christ, allegories of Vices and Virtues and the Last Judgement.

Among his Florentine works stands out the spectacular Ognissanti Madonna, also known as the Uffizi Maestà, as well as his frescoes in the Basilica of Santa Croce. The Peruzzi Chapel, frescoed with the Life of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, and the Bardi Chapel displaying the Life of Saint Francis are worth visiting.

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.

image source: http://restaurars.altervista.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/capp_scrovegni4.jpg

Unfortunately, several works by Giotto have been destroyed or lost. Some of the remained ones are displayed in national and international museums such as the Louvre Museum in Paris and the MET in New York.

Giotto was not just a painter but also an appreciated architect. He worked in Florence as master builder for Opera del Duomo, erecting the first part of the Bell Tower, named after him – Giotto’s Bell Tower.

info source:  https://www.discovertuscany.com/tuscany-history-and-culture/great-tuscans/giotto.html

Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence, Italy.

image source: https://www.discovertuscany.com/tuscany-history-and-culture/great-tuscans/giotto.html

 

HOW CAN WE IDENTIFY GIOTTO’S STYLE? 

In Giotto’s works human beings are the exclusive subject matter, and they act with dedicated passion their parts in the great Christian drama of sacrifice and redemption. By comparison, all his predecessors and most of his immediate successors painted a puppet show with lifeless mannequins tricked out in the rags of the splendid, hieratic, and impersonal art of Byzantium, which was to be entirely superseded by the urgent emotionalism of the Franciscan approach to Christianity.

Dio Padre in trono (detail), 1303-05, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.

image source: http://www.artribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Giotto-Dio-Padre-in-trono-particolare-1303-05-ca.-dalla-cappella-degli-Scrovegni-Padova-Musei-Civici-di-Padova-Museo-d%E2%80%99arte-medievale-e-moderna.jpg

Giotto’s figures are not stylized or elongated and do not follow the Byzantine models of his contemporaries. They are solidly three-dimensional, have faces and gestures that are based on close observation, and are clothed not in swirling formalized drapery, but in garments that hang naturally and have form and weight. He also took bold steps in foreshortening and with having characters face inwards, with their backs towards the observer creating the illusion of space.

info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Giotto-di-Bondone#toc234069main

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto#Style

  • COMPOSITION

Giotto made excellent use of the space he was allotted to give his viewer a sense of involvement in the work. Due to the way he arranged his subjects, the viewer often seems to have an actual place in the painting itself. He used horizon lines, diagonal lines and other types of geography to draw attention to the main idea of the fresco and to what he most wanted viewers to focus on.

Giotto, Lamentation of the Christ, c.1305, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamentation_of_Christ#/media/File:Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-36-_-_Lamentation_(The_Mourning_of_Christ)_adj.jpg

  • COLOR PALETTE

Dismissing the excessively-reverent, celestial tone of most existing religious works, Giotto chose to substitute lovely natural blue skies for the typical “heavenly” gold ones so favored by Medievalists. He gave authentic color to his subjects’ clothing, hair and faces, eschewing the accepted standard of dull, nondescript details and all emphasis on the work’s sanctity. He also incorporated bold green, yellow, orange and red to communicate emotion, unusual at the time.

Giotto, Crucifixion, 1303-1305, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.

image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocifissione_(Giotto)

  • USE OF LIGHT /SHADE

He broke the mold was to manipulate the effects of light and shade to communicate a sense of reality to the viewer, and he used light and shade to give life to his subjects. He paint his subjects as real people with weight and form that were governed by the laws of gravity. The use of light and shade draws attention to the realness of the human form by emphasizing curves, bulk, muscles, and other body lines.

Giotto, Ognissanti Madonna (detail) , 1310, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

image source: http://www.travelingintuscany.com/arte/giotto.htm

  • MOOD, TONE & EMOTION

Giotto spent countless hours observing people in various states of emotion: fear, joy, shock, grief, anger, despair, and many other emotions all feature prominently in his work. Di Bondone may have sacrificed some of his subjects’ dignity to truthfully portray their emotions, but in doing so he preserved their humanity for the centuries that would follow him.

Giotto, Cross of Santa Maria Novella (detail), 1290, Florence, Italy.

image source: http://www.travelingintuscany.com/images/art/giotto/crucifix1700.jpg

info source: http://www.artble.com/artists/giotto_di_bondone/more_information/style_and_technique

 

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