Giotto di Bondone

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Giotto di bondone

(c. 1266-1337)
Italian architect; designed the Florence Cathedral campanile (1334), which combines Romanesque, Classical, and Gothic elements.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Giotto di Bondone


Born 1266 or 1267, in Colle-di Vespignano (?), in Tuscany; died Jan. 8, 1337, in Florence. Italian painter. Representative of the proto-Renaissance.

Giotto may have studied in Cimabue’s workshop (1280-90). He worked mainly in Padua and Florence, and he enjoyed wide recognition among his contemporaries and the citizens of Florence, where from 1334 he directed the construction of the cathedral and fortifications.

A revolution in the development of Italian painting is associated with Giotto. Boldly breaking with medieval artistic canons and the traditions of Italo-Byzantine painting, he introduced an earthly principle into religious subjects, painting scenes from Gospel legends with unprecedented lifelike conviction and converting them into fascinating, dramatic stories. Several of the frescoes in the Upper Church of San Francesco in Assisi, which were painted between 1290 and 1299, may be among the artist’s early works. The frescoes were executed by a group of painters, which makes it difficult to establish whether they were in fact created by Giotto. (A number of researchers think they were not.)

At the beginning of the 14th century, Giotto visited Rome. His familiarity with late classical painting and the works of P. Cavallini influenced Giotto’s creative work. Between 1304 and 1306 he created his principal work—the murals of the Scrovegni Chapel (Capella del Arena) in Padua. Distributed in three tiers on the walls of the chapel, the murals re-create consecutively the story of the life of Mary and Christ. A number of qualities make the murals outstanding examples of Italian painting in the proto-Renaissance. The theme is treated as a series of dramatic episodes, the principle of unity of time and place is followed in each composition, and the structure of the dimensions and space of each scene is unusually energetic. The murals are also outstanding for the simplicity of the situations depicted, the flowing expressiveness of gestures, and bright, festive colors. For all these qualities the murals are considered a great work of the Italian proto-Renaissance. The principal figures, which are imbued with composure and dignity, reflect the newly introduced concept of the value of the human personality and of earthly being. At the beginning of the 14th century, Giotto painted the murals in the church of the Badia in Florence (1300-02), fragments of which were discovered in 1966. He also created a number of altar paintings; the best known is Madonna d’Ognissanti (1310-20, the Uffizi, Florence).

Preserving traditional composition, Giotto achieved great authority in his handling of spatial relations and in the monumentality and inner significance of his images. The murals in the Peruzzi (c. 1320) and Bardi (1320-25) chapels in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence, which depict the lives of John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and Francis of Assisi, belong to the later period of his work. Organically tied to the architecture of the chapels, the murals are distinguished by solemn tranquillity, architectonic harmony of composition, and restrained color schemes.

The plan for a campanile (bell tower) for the Florentine Cathedral is attributed to Giotto. Although its ornamentation has a Gothic quality, the bell tower is characterized by the clear separation and rhythmic proportion of its parts. (Construction of the tower was begun in 1334, was continued from 1337 to 1343 under Andrea Pisano, and was completed c. 1359 under F. Talenti.) Giotto’s work had a great deal of influence on the development of Italian art, as can be seen in the works of his pupils (Taddeo Gaddi) and the works of many outstanding masters of the 14th and 15th centuries (Altichiero, Avanzo, Masaccio, and Castagno) and the High Renaissance (Michelangelo).


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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