Giotto di Bondone, known mononymously as Giotto and Latinised as Giottus, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence during the Late Middle Ages.
31 Facts About Giotto
Giorgio Vasari described Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating "the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years".
Giotto's masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, known as the Arena Chapel, which was completed around 1305.
The fact that Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Commune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties about his life.
Tradition holds that Giotto was born in a farmhouse, perhaps at Colle di Romagnano or Romignano.
The great Florentine painter Cimabue discovered Giotto drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock.
Giotto tells of one occasion when Cimabue was absent from the workshop, and Giotto painted a remarkably lifelike fly on a face in a painting of Cimabue.
Around 1290 Giotto married Ricevuta di Lapo del Pela, the daughter of Lapo del Pela of Florence.
Giotto designed the Navicella, a mosaic that decorated the facade of Old St Peter's Basilica.
Cimabue went to Assisi to paint several large frescoes at the new Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, and it is possible, but not certain, that Giotto went with him.
Giotto was called to work in Padua and in Rimini, where there remains only a Crucifix painted before 1309 and conserved in the Church of St Francis.
Around 1305, Giotto executed his most influential work, the interior frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua that in 2021 were declared UNESCO World Heritage together with other 14th-century fresco cycles in different buildings around the city centre.
Vasari, drawing on a description by Giovanni Boccaccio, a friend of Giotto's, says of him that "there was no uglier man in the city of Florence" and indicates that his children were plain in appearance.
Giotto is depicted mainly in profile, and his eyes point continuously to the right, perhaps to guide the viewer onwards in the episodes.
Giotto's style drew on the solid and classicizing sculpture of Arnolfo di Cambio.
Unlike those by Cimabue and Duccio, Giotto's figures are not stylized or elongated and do not follow Byzantine models.
Giotto took bold steps in foreshortening and having characters face inwards, with their backs towards the observer, creating the illusion of space.
Giotto is thought to have been inspired by the 1301 appearance of Halley's comet, which led to the 1986 space probe Giotto being named after the artist.
From 1306 from 1311 Giotto was in Assisi, where he painted the frescoes in the transept area of the Lower Church of the Basilica of St Francis, including The Life of Christ, Franciscan Allegories and the Magdalene Chapel, drawing on stories from the Golden Legend and including the portrait of Bishop Teobaldo Pontano, who commissioned the work.
The cardinal commissioned Giotto to decorate the apse of St Peter's Basilica with a cycle of frescoes that were destroyed during the 16th-century renovation.
In Florence, where documents from 1314 to 1327 attest to his financial activities, Giotto painted an altarpiece, known as the Ognissanti Madonna, which is on display in the Uffizi, where it is exhibited beside Cimabue's Santa Trinita Madonna and Duccio's Rucellai Madonna.
The Ognissanti altarpiece is the only panel painting by Giotto that has been universally accepted by scholars, despite the fact that it is undocumented.
Giotto painted around the time the Dormition of the Virgin, now in the Berlin Gemaldegalerie, and the Crucifix in the Church of Ognissanti.
Giotto's compositions influenced Masaccio's frescos at the Brancacci Chapel, and Michelangelo is known to have studied them.
Giotto represents only seven scenes from the saint's life, and the narrative is arranged somewhat unusually.
Previously ascribed to Giotto, it is believed to be mostly a work by assistants, including Taddeo Gaddi, who later frescoed the chapel.
The next year, Giotto was called by King Robert of Anjou to Naples where he remained with a group of pupils until 1333.
Also in this time period, according to Vasari, Giotto composed a series on the Bible; scenes from the Book of Revelation were based on ideas by Dante.
In 1334, Giotto was appointed chief architect to Florence Cathedral.
Giotto's last known work was with assistants' help: the decoration of Podesta Chapel in the Bargello, Florence.
Giotto told the man to "Go into the world a little, before you talk of arms as if you were the Duke of Bavaria", and in response was sued.