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Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone

(c. 1266 - 1337)
Born: Colle di Vespignano, Italy
Style: Early Renaissance
Famous Works:
  • Arena Chapel frescoes (c. 1305)
  • The Lamentation (1305-06)
  • Madonna Enthroned (1308-11)
Due to a lack of recorded history, there is much controversy surrounding the life and work of Giotto di Bondone. It is known that Giotto was one of the first artists in the late Middle Ages to place tremendous importance on painting from life. Giotto developed the ability to depict people with strikingly accurate expressions, in natural poses. Giotto is also known for creating unity between his subjects and their settings, a skill that had not been of high priority in the art of the Middle Ages. The details of his training and childhood are unclear, however, sixteenth century art historian Giorgio Vasari wrote that Cimabue discovered Giotto. The legend says that Giotto was a simple herder, drawing remarkably lifelike sheep on the rocks as he worked, and Cimabue was so impressed that he took the boy as his apprentice. Because of this connection, it is possible that Giotto was a part of the fresco cycle project in Assisi that Cimabue is credited with completing. Certainly Giotto absorbed the lessons Cimabue's art had to offer, and remarkably broke with the Gothic tradition, making art history in the meantime. His masterpiece is the fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel in Padua. Giotto was well established as a master of Tuscany when he received this commission. In these panels Giotto depicted the life of the Virgin, and imbued the space with unprecedented realism. Of note is the accuracy of the weight and motion in figures. Giotto's method was groundbreaking, as no one before had portrayed such feeling and realism into a two-dimensional medium, and his new style became the cornerstone of the Italian Renaissance.
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