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Giotto (Giotto di Bondone1)
1267? - January 8, 1337
Part 3 of 6: Frescoes
The frescoes of the Arena chapel must have been a labour of years, and of the date of their termination we have no proof. Of many other works said to have been executed by Giotto at Padua, all that remains consists of some scarce recognizable traces in the chapter-house of the great Franciscan church of St Antonio. For twenty years or more we lose all authentic data as to Giotto's doings and movements. Vasari, indeed, sends him on a giddy but in the main evidently fabulous round of travels, including a sojourn in France, which it is certain he never made. Besides Padua, he is said to have resided and left great works at Ferrara, Ravenna, Urbino, Rimini, Faenza, Lucca and other cities; in some of them paintings of his school are still shown, but nothing which can fairly be claimed to be by his hand. It is recorded also that he was much employed in his native city of Florence; but the vandalism of later generations has effaced nearly all that he did there. Among works whitewashed over by posterity were the frescoes with which he covered no less than five chapels in the church of Santa Croce. Two of these, the chapels of the Bardi and the Peruzzi families, were scraped in the early part of the 19th century, and very important remains were uncovered and immediately subjected to a process of restoration which has robbed them of half their authenticity. But through the ruins of time we can trace in some of these Santa Croce frescoes all the qualities of Giotto's work at an even higher and more mature development than in the best examples at Assisi or Padua. The frescoes of the Bardi chapel tell again the story of St Francis, to which so much of his best power had already been devoted; those of the Peruzzi chapel deal with the lives of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist. Such scenes as the Funeral of St Francis, the Dance of Herodias's Daughter, and the Resurrection of St John the Evangelist, which have to some extent escaped the disfigurements of the restorer, are among acknowledged classics of the world's art. The only clues to the dates of any of these works are to be found in the facts that among the figures in the Bardi chapel occurs that of St Louis of Toulouse, who was not canonized till 1317, therefore the painting must be subsequent to that year, and that the "Dance of Salome" must have been painted before 1331, when it was copied by the Lorenzetti at Siena. The only other extant works of Giotto at Florence are a fine "Crucifix," not undisputed, at San Marco, and the majestic but somewhat heavy altar-piece of the Madonna, probably an early work, which is placed in the Academy beside a more primitive Madonna supposed to be the work of Cimabue.
1 Not to be confused with Giotto di Buondone, a contemporary citizen and politician of Siena.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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