Vita di Giotto / Life of Giotto (Parallel Text)

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Francis must have been painted before the influence of the mature Giotto had gained its powerful ascendancy in Trecento art, and not least in Assisi. But it is con- ceivable that its execution occupied a number of years and suffered from interruptions, which would make the work unequal.

The possi- bility of this traditional assumption is, of course, not excluded by our previous analysis of the St. Francis pictures, though it is not in ac- cordance with our general conception of Giotto's art. In any case his work was soon broken off and then so completely retouched by other artists and restorers that individual characteristics or tangible traces of his work in the Upper Church of Assisi are hardly discernible.

The his- torical material is unfortunately scanty.

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Giotto's personality was already a topic for discussion among the authors of the fourteenth century, but it so happens that the greater part of the stories attached to the famous painter must be relegated to the province of myth. They make it evident that Giotto was early assigned a seat of honor among Italy's " uomini famosi," but they contribute very little to an estimate of his artistic importance.

Purgatorio XI, Petrarch and Boccaccio hail him as the reviver of art. The date of Giotto's birth remains in doubt. Vasari says that he was born in , but Antonio Pucci, a younger contemporary of Giotto's, writes in his " Centiloquio " a versified adaptation of Giovanni Villani's Florentine Chronicle , that Giotto was seventy years old in , which would set back the date of his birth to The question cannot be settled in the absence of documentary evi- dence.

On account of Giotto's position in art one is tempted to adopt Vasari's statement, but Pucci, as the older authority, naturally has the greater claim to trustworthiness. A notice in a martyrology in the archives of St.

Baldinucci, Notizie dei Professori di disegno, i, 40 ff. The notice in question, however, simply states that the cardinal had an altarpiece made for St.

Peter's by the famous painter Giotto, at the same time as the so-called Navicella mosaic, but it gives no definite date for these works. Peter's, it has been so altered by restoration that it has lost all value for the criti- cism of Giotto's art. The composition can now best be studied in the old drawings, of which one is in the Chatsworth collection and another in the Codice Barheriniano in the Vatican Library. It is, however, possible that Giotto was living in Rome about , the year of the great Jubilee, when Pope Boniface VIII built, among other things, a loggia at the Lateran Basilica, which, according to contemporary authorities, was decorated by Giotto with three frescoes, showing the Pope proclaiming the Jubilee, the baptism of the Emperor Constantine, and the laying of the foundations of the Lateran Church.

Of the first of these frescoes a fragment remains, which has been moved inside the church. The painting has, however, been com- pletely ruined by successive restorations and therefore need not concern us further. During the next period of his activity Giotto seems to have spent most of his time in northern and eastern Italy. We know that the Arena Chapel in Padua was begun in the year and was entirely finished in time to be consecrated in March, How long he remained in Padua we do not know, but following the consensus of opinion of the older authors such as Riccobaldo Ferrarese, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and the so-called " Anonimo Morelliano," we have good reason to suppose that he executed a number of other works besides the frescoes in the Arena Chapel.

It was consecrated on March 16, Very probably that great room was once decorated with scenes from the life of Christ and the history of the Franciscan Order. But the paintings have been lost, except for two pictures on an end wall, representing the stigmatization of St.

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Fran- cis and the martyrdom of the Franciscans at Ceuta, besides eight figures of saints. These frescoes have evidently been freed from a coat of plaster in the course of a modern restoration of the hall, which has suffered harsh treatment, among other things the ravages of fire. The paintings are considerably renewed, but their style in- dicates clearly that they were originally the work of a great master. It is quite possible that they are among the wreckage of Giotto's work.

Shortly before, or perhaps shortly after, his activity in Padua, Giotto seems to have been at Rimini. This appears from the Com- pilatio Chronologica of the Ferrarese author Riccobaldo, concluded in The mention of Giotto, which seems to have been entered as early as , is of the greatest interest as the oldest reference to the artist's work that we now possess.

AG Fronzoni

It reads as follows: " Zottus pictor eximus florentinus agnoscitur; qualis in arte fuerit testantur opera facta per eum in ecclesia Minorum Assisii, Arimi- ni, Padua, ac per ea quae pinxit in palatio communis Paduae et in ecclesia Arene Paduae. San Francesco in Rimini was burnt out in the first half of the fourteenth century. Whatever the reference to the Assisi pictures may mean, it can hardly apply to anything except Giotto's partici- pation in some of the frescoes of St.

Francis, for the other pictures there are of later date. It would, however, be discordant with modern scholarly methods to reckon the St. Francis frescoes as Giotto's work solely on the grounds of such an assertion by an ancient chronicler. Anonimo Morelliano, Notizie d'opere di disegno, publicata di D. Jacopo Morelli, ed. Frizzoni, Bologna, Scriptores IX, Mediolani, Rintelen, Giotto, p.

Rintelen gives a more correct interpretation of the passage than the one usually followed which was given by Milanesi in his notes to Vasari cf. Vasari, ed. Sansoni, i, We have insisted that Giotto's collaboration in the St. Francis series is conceivable, but not evident, because of the lack of the characteristics which distinguish Giotto's later authentic works. Despite Riccobaldo's statement which is not substantiated by any document , we must, therefore, leave unsolved the problem of Giotto's share in the St.

Francis frescoes; their style, as they now appear, is in no wise such as to increase our admiration for the great artist. In Giotto seems to have been back in Florence, for on the fifteenth of June of that year Rinuccio di Puccio del Mugnaio donates a sum of money to Santa Maria Novella to supply oil for a lamp to burn before a crucifix which he is having made by " Giottus Bon- donis de Florentia. The only Trecento crucifix which is now to be found in that church is a rather feeble performance, somewhat altered by restoration, and showing no pronounced Giottesque character.

Another legal document makes it evident that Giotto was not living in his native city during the year by this document he gives his daughter Bice a farm near San Michele di Aglione, but in order to do so he has to get his son Tommaso to surrender his claim.

A document dated Janu- ary 21, , signed by the king describes Giotto as " Magister Joctus de Florentia pictor, familaris et fidelis noster," distinguished for his wise deeds and his fruitful activity, " ipsum in familiarem nostrum recipimus et de nostro hospicio retinemus. The records of a lawsuit establish Giotto's presence in Naples two years later. Milanesi, notes to Vasari, i, Crowe e Cavalcaselle, Storia, i, , note. Crowe e Cavalcaselle, Storia, i, Document first published by H.

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Schultz, Denkmciler der Kunst des Mittelalters in Unteritalien. Venturi, Storia, v, , note. The only memorials of the artist's Neapolitan period that survive are the anecdotes which Vasari retails, presenting Giotto in the role of an extraordinarily quick-witted conversationalist. Giotto was finally honored by the city of his birth with the title of City Architect. On April 12, , the " Consiglio della Citta di Firenze " passed the following resolution: " In order that the works which are being undertaken in the city of Florence and are to be carried out for the benefit of the commune may proceed in the most perfect manner, which is not possible unless an experienced and emi- nent man is chosen as leader in these works ; and as in the whole world there is to be found none better qualified for that, and for much besides, than Master Giotto di Bondone, the painter of Florence, he shall therefore be named in his native city as Magnus Magister and publicly regarded as such, so that he may have occasion to abide here; for by his presence many can have the advantage of his wisdom and learning, and the city shall gain no small honor because of him.

Wherefore it is provided, ordained, and resolved, that the Lords Priors, the Gonfaloniere Justitiae and the Council of the twelve Viri Boni, in the name of the City, select and designate Master Giotto as leader and master for the building operations at the Church of Santa Reparata, and for the construction and completion of the city walls and fortifications, and for other works for the aforesaid Commune.

The only building which can be ascribed to Giotto on historical evidence is the Campanile of the Cathedral of Florence. We know that the corner-stone of this stately building was laid on the eighteenth of July, , while Giotto was Capomaestro. Attempts have been made to identify a drawing now in the Opera del Duomo at Siena as the master's original plan. The drawing presents a typical Gothic bell-tower with a lofty spire, quite unlike the existing Campanile. If the assumption is correct that Giotto made this sketch, it is evident that the succeeding masterbuilders, Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti, did not feel themselves bound by their predecessor's plan.

Only the two lower stories of the Campanile, as it now stands, were completed in Giotto's time. Baldinucci, i, If Giotto did the first two, he must have done the third also, for they all show the same individ- ual characteristics of style. The figures are full and softly rounded, the treatment of drapery is flowing, the composition is distinguished by more harmonious beauty than in the subsequent reliefs.

Even if Giotto himself did not carve them — which is hardly probable when we consider his age — he may have furnished the drawings for them. They show good evidence of his plastic genius. Giotto died on January 8, Vasari was evi- dently anxious not to pass over briefly such an important artist as Giotto, and consequently produced a biography rich in anecdote but deficient in exact information.

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Only so far as they are supported by Ghiberti can Vasari's assertions be conceded historical plausibility; we may therefore ignore the popular biography and confine ourselves to the more significant portions of Ghiberti's Commentarii on the work of Giotto. It is plain that Giotto, like other great artists, gradu- ally became the subject of a local legend, which made him responsible for far more work than ever was executed by his own hand. His name acquired a sort of collective signification, which was the more natural on account of his position at the head of a whole school, a new group of artists, whose personalities were far less known than the master's.

II Codice Magliabechiano, ed. Frey, Berlin, Vita di Lorenzo Ghiberti, con i Commentarj, ed. A later edition by J. Individual attributions, especially in the case of such an early painter as Giotto, cannot be based on the opinions of ancient authorities — even if they are as accurate as Ghiberti — but must be justified by critical analysis of style. The historic traditions are none the less of great interest, for they reflect the contemporary appreciation of the artist's importance and of his comprehensive activity. Ghiberti first tells the traditional story of how Cimabue, wander- ing one day toward the village of Vespignano, near Florence, found a shepherd lad drawing a sheep on a flat stone, and how, recognizing the boy's unusual gift, he proposed to his father, a peasant named Bondone, that he should take the lad home and teach him the craft of painting.

Ghiberti continues: "He brought in the new art, abandoned the stiff manner of the Greeks, and became the most excellent artist in Etruria.

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Great works were made [by him] in many places and particularly in the city of Florence; and [about him] there were a number of pupils, all gifted men like the ancient Greeks. Giotto perceived in art things which others had not seen. He brought into being an art near to nature and with it a gentleness, keeping always within a just measure. He was most experienced in all branches of art and discovered much knowledge that had been hidden for about six hundred years. When nature gives, she gives without stint.