Giotto di Bondone | Art in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia, Holiday house in the south of Tuscany
Seven centuries ago, Giotto was famous for being famous. this work by his pupil as a connection, albeit second-hand, with the master. Vasari, who relates how Cimabue discovered Giotto, tells how when Cimabue painted. He was the teacher of Giotto, considered to be the first truly great (Some art historians dispute the claim that Cimabue was Giotto's teacher, by. Marriage of the Virgin by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel. a rock and that the artist Cimabue, who happened to be passing by, saw him at work.
Abouta rhymed version of the Villani chronicle was produced by Antonio Pucci, town crier of Florence and amateur poet, in which it is stated that Giotto was 70 when he died. But Giorgio Vasari, inhis important biography of Giotto, gives as the year of Giotto's birth, and it may be that he was copying oneof the two known versions of the Libro di Antonio Billi, a 16th-century collection of notes on Florentine artists.
Certainty of the date of Giotto's birth, if settled by new documents, could help to solve the problem of his work at Assisi, as well as the question of the origins of his style. Giotto has always been assumed to have been the pupil of Cimabue; two independent traditions, each differing on the particular circumstances, assert this, and it is probably correct. Furthermore, Cimabue's style was, in certain respects, so similar to Giotto's in intention that a connection seems inescapable.
Cimabue was the most outstanding painter in Italy at the end of the 13th century; hetried, as no artist had before, to break through, with the power of reality and imaginative force, the stylized forms of medieval art. He did not fully succeed, but it seems almost certain that Giotto began his remarkable development with him, inspired by his strength of drawing and his ability to incorporate dramatic tension into his works.
On the other hand, whatever Giotto may have learned from Cimabue, it is clear that, even more than the sculptor Nicola Pisano about 30 years earlier, he succeeded in an astonishing innovation that originated in his own genius—a true revival of classical ideals and an expression in art of the new humanity that St.
Francis had in the early 13th century brought to religion. In Giotto's works human beings are the exclusive subject matter, and they act with dedicated passion their parts in thegreat 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.
The Assisi Problem The central problem in Giotto studies, the attribution of the Assisi frescoes, may be summed up as the question whether Giotto ever painted at Assisi and, if so, what? There can be no reasonable doubt that he did work at Assisi, for a long literary tradition goes back to the Compilatio chronologica ofRiccobaldo Ferrarese, who wrote in or beforewhen Giotto was alive and famous.
Later writers down to Vasari expanded this and made it clear that Giotto's works were in the great double church of San Francesco St. By Vasari's time, several frescoes in both upper and lower churches were attributed to Giotto, the most important being the cycle of 28 scenes from the life of St.
Some of the frescoes in the St. Francis cycle were damaged by earthquakes that struck Assisi on Sept. The majority of these scenes, mostly narrative, are revolutionary in their expression of reality and humanity.
In these frescoes, the emphasis is on the dramatic moment of each situation, and, with details of dress and background at aminimum, the inner reality of human emotion is intensified through crucial gestures and glances. In the 19th century, however, it was observed that all these frescoes, though similar in style, could not be by the same hand, and the new trend toward skepticism of Vasari's statements led to the position that rejected all the Assisi frescoes and dated the St.
Francis cycle to a period after Giotto's death. This extreme view has been generally abandoned, and, indeed, a dated picture of can be shown to derive from the St. Nevertheless, many scholars prefer to accept the idea of an otherwise totally unknown Master of the St. Francis legend, on the grounds that the style of the cycle is irreconcilable with that of the later Arena Chapel frescoes in Padua, which are universally accepted as Giotto's. This involves the idea that the works referred to in Giotto's lifetime by Riccobaldo cannot be identified with anything now extant and must have perished centuries ago, so that the early 15th-century sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, Vasari, and others mistakenly transferred the existing St.
Fame is fickle, the gift of Fortune, who readily and inevitably takes it away. Every celebrity learns this in the end. But the great 13th-century painter Cimabue learnt it in the cruellest way, according to Florentine legend handed down to the 16th-century artist and storyteller Vasari.
Before Giotto came along, Cimabue was celebrated. He was the first Florentine - rivalled only by his Sienese contemporary Duccio - to reject the hieratic stiffness of what Italians came to scorn as the "Greek style" in painting. One of the cliches about the history of Italian art is that the Renaissance began with the import of Greek learning from Byzantium. But in painting, it began in the opposite way - with the repudiation of Byzantine art in the 13th and 14th centuries.
But Cimabue's fate was to be eclipsed - and by the boy he himself plucked from pastoral obscurity. It was said that Cimabue found the young Giotto tending his flocks, and saw him drawing in the earth with a stick.
He instantly recognised the child's natural talent, and took Giotto as his pupil. Vasari, who relates how Cimabue discovered Giotto, tells how when Cimabue painted his captivating altarpiece for the Rucellai Chapel at Santa Maria Novella, the Florentine people were so delighted they staged a solemn festival.
The painting was borne through the streets with music and prayers. It is a spectacular image of medieval fame, scarcely diminished by the fact that the Rucellai Madonna is by Duccio.
In Leighton's picture, Cimabue, dressed in white and wearing a laurel wreath, holds the hand of his young pupil, Giotto. Tragedy was just round the corner. Giotto owes his mythic status to his contemporary, and probably his friend, the poet Dante Alighieri. Dante tells the story, in the early 14th century, in his Divine Comedy. The pilgrim Dante, given the privilege of seeing the places we enter after death while still alive, is climbing Mount Purgatory when he meets a man renowned in his lifetime as an illuminator of manuscripts.
Oderisi of Gubbio is one of those being punished for pride. He warns Dante of the emptiness of earthly glory, the transitory and worthless nature of fame. And he mentions a glaring recent example: Giotto, the boy folklorically plucked from his herds by Cimabue, has ruined his master's reputation.
So his declaration that Giotto's fame obscured Cimabue is not folklore - it is reliable reportage. For the last time, we might say, Dante in his great poem represents the life of man in the midst of mighty Powers from beyond the Earth; but Giotto, his contemporary and probably his friend, Giotto in his paintings already brings to expression the immediate interest in all that lives and moves on Earth.
Thus we see, beginning with Giotto's pictures, the faithful portrayal of the individual in Nature and in Man. It is no mere chance that the paintings ascribed to Giotto in the upper church at Assisi deal with the life of St.
Francis, for there is a deep inner connection of soul between Giotto and Francis of Assisi — St. Francis, the religious genius, bringing forth out of a fervent life of soul his sympathy with all the growth of Nature upon Earth; and Giotto, imitating, to begin with, St. Francis' way of feeling, St. Francis' way of entering into the spirit and soul of the world. Thus we see the stream of evolution leading on from Cimabue's rigid lines and two-dimensional conception, to Giotto, in whose work we see increasingly the portrayal of the natural, individual creature, the reality of things seen; we see things standing more and more in space, rather than speaking to us out of the flat surface.
Cimabue - Wikipedia
We will now give ourselves up to the immediate impression of Giotto's pictures, one by one. We shall see his growing appreciation of the individual human character and figure. Giotto shows himself with all the greater emphasis inasmuch as his pictures deal with the sacred legend, and so he tries to reproduce in the outward expression the inmost and intensest life of the soul.
Now, therefore, we shall have before us a series of Giotto's pictures, beginning with those that are generally regarded as his earliest. You will still see in them the tradition of the former time, but along with it there is already the human element, in the way in which he knew it — the way that I have just described. San Francesco, Assisi 5.
Alter-piece, Santa Croce, Florence. Presentation in the Temple, San Francesco, Assisi. The Miracle of the Spring. Awakening of the Youth of Suessa. The Mourning for St. Francis by the Nuns.
Cimabue, Santa Trinita Madonna & Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna
Thus gradually the whole life of St. Francis was painted by Giotto; and everywhere in his artistic work we find a feeling similar to that of St. Even when you take the visionary elements in these pictures, you will see how his effort is in every case to paint them from within, so that the language of human feeling is far more in evidence than in the pictures of Cimabue, who was concerned only with the gazing inward of transcendent impulses from spheres beyond the Earth.
Again, in the faces themselves you will no longer find the mere traditional expression, but you will see in every case: The man who painted these pictures had really looked at the faces of men.
Look at these last two pictures. Their inherent tenderness recalls to us the beautiful fact that is related of the life of St. He had long been working at his Hymn to Nature — the great and beautiful hymn throughout which he speaks of his brothers and his sisters, of sisters Sun and Moon and the other planets, and of all earthly creatures. All that he had felt in loving, realistic devotion of his soul, in sympathy with Nature, is gathered up so wonderfully in this hymn.
But the directness of his union with all earthly Nature finds expression most of all in this beautiful fact that the last verse wherein he addresses Brother Death was written in the very last days of his life. Francis could not sing the hymn of praise to Brother Death till he himself lay actually on his deathbed, when he called to his brothers that they should sing around him of the joys of death while he felt himself going out and out into that World which was now to receive his spirit.
It was only out of the immediate, realistic experience that St. Francis could and would describe his tender union with all the world. Beautifully this is revealed in the fact that while he had sung the Hymn of Praise to all other things before, he only sang to Death when he himself was at Death's door.
The last thing he dictated was the final verse of his great Hymn of Life, which is addressed to Brother Death, and shows how man, when he is thrown back upon himself alone, conceives the union of Christ with human life. Surely it cannot be more beautifully expressed than in this picture, revealing the new conception of human life that was already pouring from out St.
Francis, and showing how directly Giotto lived in the same aura of thought and feeling. Joachim and the Shepherds. I have inserted this later picture, so that you may see the progress Giotto made in his subsequent period of life. You see how the figures here are conceived still more as single human individuals. In the period from which the former pictures were taken, we see the artist carried along, as it were, by the living impulses of St. Here in this picture, belonging as it does to a later period of his life, we see him coming more into his own.
We will presently return to the pictures more immediately following his representations of St. Capella Madonna dell' Arena, Padua. This, too, is from his later period, showing a consideraby greater realism than before. Marriage of the Virgin. Capella Madonna dell'Arena, Padua.
Also of his later period. The Baptism of Christ. In such pictures we see how natural it was to the men of that age to express themselves in allegories. The conditions of life undergo immense changes in the course of centuries. It was a tremendous change when the life that had found expression in pictures at that time, passed over into that in which we live today, which takes its course more in thoughts and ideas communicated through the medium of books.
This was a far greater revolution than is generally realised. The desire to express oneself in allegories was especially strong in that age. It is most interesting to see how in such a case artistic realism is combined with the striving to make the whole picture like a Book of the World in which the onlooker may read. Francis submits the Rules of his Order to the Pope. This picture is related once more the earlier art of Giotto — springing as it does from his increasing entry into the whole world of feeling of St.
Beautifully we see how the artist seeks to represent the inner life of St. John, bringing forth out of his heart his inner connection with the great World. This, then, is St. John, writing, or at least conceiving, the Apocalypse.
The Raising of Lazarus. The Flight into Egypt. The Annunciation to St. The Resurrection of Christ. The Crowning with Thorns. We will insert, directly after this Madonna by Giotto, the Madonna by Cimabue which we have already seen, so that you may recognise the immense difference in the treatment of the sacred figure. Observe — despite the obvious persistence of the old tradition — the realism of this picture, in the eyes, the mouth, and the whole conception of the Jesus child.
We have before us human beings, copied from the reality of earthly life, looking out from the Earth into the World. Compare this with Cimabue's picture, where we rather have before us an original spiritual vision traditionally handed down — where Beings gaze from realms beyond the Earth into this world.
However much in the composition is reminiscent of the former picture, you will see, even in the way the lines are drawn, the immense difference between the two. Capella Madonna dell' Arena. Once more an allegorical picture. The former was an earlier work, while this belongs to a very late period in Giotto's life.
We will now insert the previous one once more so that you may see the great progression.
- A star is born
This picture is taken from the chapel in Padua, where Giotto returned once more to the former legend. Here, then, you see how he treats a very similar subject so far as the composition is concerned, at an earlier and at a much later stage in his career. Observe the far greater freedom, the far greater power to enter into individual details which the later picture reveals. The Feast of Herod. The Appearance in Arles.
Birth and Naming of John the Baptist. Andrea da Firenze School of Giotto: Doctrine of the Church. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella. This picture, the Church Militant, is generally associated with the School of Giotto. Here you see the rise of that compositional element which was to play so great a part in the subsequent history of painting. Quite a new inner life appears before us here. We may describe the difference somewhat as follows: If we consider the evolution of Christianity until the time of Dante and Giotto, we shall find a strong element of Platonism in its whole way of feeling.
Far be it from me to mislead you into the belief that it contained the Platonic Philosophy; but Platonism, that is to say, a feeling and conception of the world which also finds expression in the philosophy of Plato, where man looks up into a sphere beyond the Earth, and does not carry into it anything that proceeds from the human intellect. After Giotto's time a theological, Aristotelian element entered more and more into the Christian world of feeling.
Once again I do not say the philosophy of Aristotle, but a theological, Aristotelian quality. Men tried, as it were, to see and summarise the world in systematic conceptions such as you see in this picture, rising upward from a world below to a middle and thence to a higher world.
Thus was the whole of life systematised through and through in an Aristotelian manner. So did the later Church conceive the life of man placed in the universal order.
Past were the times from which Cimabue still rayed forth, when men's conception of a world beyond the Earth proceeded still from the old visionary life. Now came a purely human way of feeling; yet the desire was, once more, to lead this human feeling upward to a higher life — to connect it with a higher life, only now in a more systematic, more intellectual and abstract way.
And so, in place of the Earlier Art, creating as from a single centre of spiritual vision, there arose the new element of composition. See the three tiers, rising systematically into higher worlds from that which is experienced and felt below. Observing this in the immediate followers of Giotto, you will already have a premonition, a feeling of what was destined to emerge in the later compositions. For who could fail to recognise that the same spirit which holds sway in the composition of this picture meets us again in a more highly evolved, more perfect form, in Raphael's Disputa.
Andrea da Firenza School of Giotto: See how the spiritual events and processes of earthly life are portrayed in the grouping of the human figures. It is the same artistic conception which emerges in Raphael's great picture, generally known as the 'School of Athens.
I beg you especially to observe the unique way in which the fundamental idea comes to expression here: Look at the expression of the faces. See how the artist's work is placed at the service of this grand idea: The rule of the Church raying out over the Earth. You may study every single countenance. Wonderfully it is expressed — raying outward from the centre — how each single human being partakes in the impulse that is thought to proceed from the Church through all the souls on Earth.
The physiognomies are such that we see clearly: The whole thing was done by an artist who was permeated by this idea, and was well able to bring to expression in the countenance of men what the Church Militant would, indeed, bring into them. We see it raying forth from every single face.
I beg you to observe this carefully, for in the later pictures which we shall see afterwards it does not come to expression with anything like the same power. Though the fundamental idea of the composition — expressed so beautifully here, both in the grouping of the figures and in the harmony between the grouping and the expressions of the faces — though the fundamental impulse was retained by later artists, nevertheless, as you will presently see for yourselves, it was an altogether different element that arose in their work.
Look at the dogs down here: Angelico represents these Domini Canes in many of his pictures. Here we come a stage further in artistic evolution. The following developments may be said to have proceeded from the stream and impulse of which Giotto was the great initiator.
But from this source a two-fold stream proceeded. In the one, we see the realistic impulse emancipating itself more and more from the Spiritual. In Giotto and in the last two pictures the Spiritual still enters in, everywhere; for, after all, this impulse proceeding from the Church Militant throughout the World is conceived as a spiritual thing. Every single figure in the composition is such that we might say: Francis himself lived after all in a spiritual world albeit lovingly, realistically inclined through his soul to the earthly world around himGiotto and his pupils, with 'however loving realism they grasped the things of this world, still lived within the Spiritual and could unite it with their conception of the single individual on Earth.
But now, as we come on into the 14th and 15th century, we see the longing, faithfully to portray the individual and Natural, emancipating itself more and more. There is no longer that strong impulse to see the vision as a whole and thence derive the single figures, which impulse was there in all the former pictures, even where Giotto and his pupils went to the Biblical story for their subjects.
Now we see the single figures more and more emancipated from the all-pervading impulse which, until then, had been poured out like a magic broach ever the picture as a whole.
More and more we see the human figures standing out as single characters, even where they are united in the compositions as a whole. Look, for example, at the magnificent building here. Observe how the artist is at pains, not so much to subordinate his figures to one root-idea, as to represent in every single one a human individual, a single character. More and more we see the single human characters simply placed side by side.
Though undoubtedly there is a greatness in the composition, still we see the single individuals emancipated naturalistically from the idea that pervades the picture as a whole. Even in this Biblical picture you can see how the expressions of the several figures are emancipated from the conception as a whole.
Far more than heretofore, the artist's effort is to portray even the Christ in such a way that an individual human quality comes to expression in Him. Likewise the other figures. In this picture you can already lose the feeling of one idea pervading the whole. See, on the other hand, the wonderful expressions of the faces in Filippino Lippi's work, both in the central figure of the visionary and in the lesser figures.
In every case the Human is brought out. Thus we see the one stream, proceeding from the source to which I just referred, working its way into an ever stronger realism, till it attains the wondrous inner perfection which you have before you in this figure of St. Bernard as he receives his vision. Here you see a wonderful progression in human feeling.
Looking at this work of Masaccio's, you can take a keen interest in every single figure, in every single head of these disciples grouped around the Christ. Look, too, how the Christ Himself is individualised.
Think of the tremendous progress in characterisation, from the pictures which we saw before, to this one. Observe the transition in feeling. Heretofore it was absorbed in the Christian cosmic conception. Now it has passed over to the renewed conception of the Roman power.
Feel in this composition, in the expressions of the several figures, how the Roman concept of power is expressed. A little while ago we say the Rule of the Church Militant pouring out as a spiritual force over the whole. Here, for the most part, are highly individualised figures — men who desire power and who join together for the sake of power, while in the former case it was a spiritual light which shone through all their faces. In the earlier pictures, each was to be understood out of the whole, while here we can but grasp the whole as a summation of the individuals, each of whom is, in a sense, a power in himself.