Monday, October 7, 2013

Giotto di Bondone (Giotto)

Giotto di Bondone was born May 1266 (exact date unknown) and died January 8, 1337.  He was an Italian painter and architect who lived in the late Middle Ages in Florence, Italy.  He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance.  He is best known for the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel (also known as the Arena Chapel in Padua (a city in Northern Italy), completed around the year 1305.  It is interesting to note that while it is certain that Giotto painted the frescos in the Arena Chapel, almost every other detail about his life (his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and his burial place) are very uncertain.

(Note: I only realized that most of his works were entirely paintings but there are still useful notes to be observed from his paintings that I believe still relate to drawing.)

As these were frescos, his work in the Arena Chapel depicted both the life of the Virgin Mary and
the life of Jesus Christ.

One of the things I enjoyed noting about Giotto's work was the fact that he was working with older templates: most likely he was not having models stand for hours at a time; in this piece, the Massacre of the Innocents, it is obvious that the women's faces are all the exact same or very similar.  Also, the faces in most of his work (and undoubtly in all artists of this time period) have very rounded cheeks and faces.  This most likely made their lives easier (as well as simply being part of the style of the era) as it decreased the enormous amount of detail Giotto and other artists had to add to large scale works of art (like frescos).

The faces are all similar in this painting as well, The Virgin Returning from her Wedding.  In this piece I enjoyed observed the method the clothes were drawn/painted.  From Giotto's work it is clearly how important shading values from light to dark are important in creating the "flowiness" of the art.  On the Virgin Mary, the folds of the clothes all pinch to her hand; the folds are done with a very light "line" for the top of the folds and varying shaded values for the side of the fold.  It's interesting to think of because if I was to do simple sketch, the tops of the folds of clothes would be actual lines to denote where the folds were, but with an actual final product, the reverse is desired to help create the lighting and the texture of the actual clothes.

In this third piece, The Flight into Egypt, it was interesting for me to look at how the mountain in the background was drawn.  Similar to the folds of clothes, the lines aren't everything; the mountain is created through a sum of areas of shading with different values; there aren't any clear cut lines (as opposed to say, the donkey's legs which have outlines drawn in).  Shading and compliation of areas of uniform shading can lead to the best results when dealing with less detailed objects (less dense, such as landscape or simpler clothes).


Jacobus, Laura. Giotto and the Arena Chapel. pp. 230-235. Turnhout: Harvey Miller, 2008. Print.

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