Giotto: life, facts, curiosities and art!

He was the forerunner of the Renaissance. He was the painter who introduced the technique of lifelike drawing. He was able to draw a perfect "O" without a compass. He's Giotto.
Giovanni Dupré, Giotto. Statue on the facade of the Uffizi Gallery.
Giovanni Dupré, Giotto. Statue on the facade of the Uffizi Gallery.
  HIS STORY Almost every aspect of his biography has always been subject to uncertainty and legends: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, if he created some of these works, and his burial place. Giotto was born Ambrogio or Angiolo di Bondone in 1267 (most likely) in Colle di Vespignano, 35 kilometres north of Florence. His artistic training probably started in the workshop of Cenni di Pepi, known as Cimabue, one of the most highly renowned painters of Tuscany. According to the legend, Cimabue discovered shepherd Giotto while drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock, pictures so lifelike that Cimabue approached the family and asked if he could take on the boy as an apprentice. According to another legend, which hoves in on Giotto’s skill, the young apprentice painted such a lifelike fly on a painting that Cimabue tried to brush it off several times! Some scholars consider the small San Giorgio alla Costa Madonna and Child (now in the Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte, Florence) as the first panel painted by Giotto independently, an artwork that had a new language of design. Giotto probably followed Cimabue to Assisi to paint several large frescoes; whom the fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis is attributed is still a topic of discussion. On the other hand, the first proven Florentine masterpiece (around 1290) is the enormous suspended Crucifix of Santa Maria Novella, about 5 metres high, a revolutionary work in its own way. The body is painted in a vertical manner, with his legs bent, representing a human, suffering, and a non-canonical figure. cultura_vhv91.T0 At this point, Giotto's fame as a painter spread. According to documents of 1301 and 1304, by this time he possessed large estates in Florence and it is probable that he was already leading a large workshop and receiving commissions from throughout Italy: Padua (where he decorated the interior of the Scrovegni Chapel), Assisi and Rome. In Florence, in this period, he painted works at the height of his artistic maturity, such as the altarpiece known as the Ognissanti Madonna, a large painting now in the Uffizi, la Dormitio Virginis and the Crucifix in the Church of Ognissanti. In 1318, he started painting chapels for four different Florentine families in the church of Santa Croce: the Bardi Chapel (Life of St. Francis), the Peruzzi Chapel (Life of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist) and the lost Giugni Chapel (Stories of the Apostles) and Tosinghi Spinelli Chapel (Stories of the Holy Virgin). As with almost everything in Giotto's career, the dates of the fresco decorations that survive in Santa Croce are disputed. The Bardi Chapel, immediately to the right of the main chapel of the church, was painted as a true fresco, while the Peruzzi Chapel, adjacent to the Bardi Chapel, was largely painted a secco, a quicker but less durable technique. The Peruzzi Chapel was especially renowned during Renaissance times; Giotto's compositions influenced Masaccio's frescoes at the Brancacci Chapel, and Michelangelo, two centuries later, is also known to have studied them.
Peruzzi Chapel, The Ascension of St John the Evangelist
Peruzzi Chapel, The Ascension of St John the Evangelist
After a series of commissioned works in Rome, Naples and Bologna, Giotto spent his last years working as an architect, almost always in Florence. In 1334, he was appointed as chief of the construction sites in Piazza Duomo and as superintendent of public works of the city of Florence, a position for which he received an annual salary of 100 florins. In the same year, he began to work on the design and creation of the new bell tower of the Cathedral – the Campanile di Giotto: he could only complete the lower floor and the bell tower was not finished entirely according to his design.
[Photo Credits: Danilo Beghi]
[Photo Credits: Danilo Beghi]
His last known work is the decoration of the Podestà Chapel in the Bargello palace, with a cycle of frescoes, now in a poor state of preservation; these frescoes include the oldest portrait of Dante Alighieri. Giotto died in January 1337 and was buried (maybe) in the Church of Santa Reparata, with a solemn ceremony at the expense of the city. In The Divine Comedy, Dante acknowledged the greatness of his living contemporary through the words of a painter in Purgatorio (XI, 94–96): "Cimabue believed that he held the field/In painting, and now Giotto has the cry,/ So the fame of the former is obscure."   HIS WORKS OF ART, IN TUSCANY (only the works attributed with certainty) FLORENCE Santa Maria Novella church Crucifix, tempera and gold on panel Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte San Giorgio alla Costa Madonna and Child, tempera and gold on panel Santa Croce church and museum Sore Madonna, fragmentary fresco detached (museum) Peruzzi Chapel, frescoes Bardi Chapel, frescoes Accademia Gallery Head pastor, fragment, detached fresco Uffizi Polyptych of Badia, tempera and gold on panel Ognissanti Madonna, tempera and gold on panel Church of Ognissanti Crucifix, tempera and gold on panel Bargello museum Podestà Chapel, frescoes (maybe Giotto only painted some of the portraits, including that of Dante) Horne museum Santo Stefano, tempera and gold on panel The bell tower! And: BORGO SAN LORENZO, San Lorenzo church Madonna of Borgo San Lorenzo, fragment, tempera and gold on panel    

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