Giotto is considered the 'Proto-Renaissance' artist, the man who started working in the style that put Florence on the map artistically and revolutionized Western art. Florence's church of Santa Croce houses 2 important fresco cycles by this great master.
In the Peruzzi chapel, Giotto painted scenes from the life of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, while in the Bardi chapel he painted stories from the life of San Francis. The walls are divided into large narrative scenes (much larger than those used by his precendents), and the cartoon-like chronology of the narrative, the emotions of the figures, and the volume of the painting must have been stunning to contemporary viewers.
The style, compared to his earlier frescos, seems more simplified, but the construction of the visual space is much better than in his previous works. The space is constructed in a more expansive manner, giving each figure a more plausible, correct space. The relationship between the space and the figure is dealt with in a more knowledgeable and skillful way. Moreover, in these frescos, Giotto seems to have almost mastered the laws of perspective. Only ten years later, the Lorenzetti brothers will be able to understand and master these laws to the same degree as Giotto. Giotto studied perspective in the mid-1300s, but it would be interrupted by his predecessors, to then be studied once again in the early 1400s by Brunelleschi and Donatello.
Critics still do not agree on the date in which these works were created, but they are certain that they were painted before 1320, when Giotto was 60 years old, and his art was more mature than when he was working on the Arena Chapel in Padova.
The frescoes are in bad condition, particularly those of the Peruzzi chapel, and this makes it more difficult to critically analyze and collocate the frescos in their historical context. It is widely believed, however, that these frescos are some of Giotto’s best work.