Giotto di Bondone( 1267-1337)is one of the few great painters recognized and applauded in his lifetime for being a revolutionary.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that a history of paintings should begin with him and most Florentines would agree that it was him who had changed the flat, old Greek manner of painting into a modern one.
He did not so much break with the traditional Byzantine style patterns as evolve from it under the influence of sculpture and mosaic.
I have enlisted 10 notable artworks of the Renaissance hero that are as follows:
1. St. Francis Mourned by St. Clare (c.1300)
This Proto-Renaissance, religious painting is the twenty-third piece of the twenty-seventh saga of paintings of “The Legend of St. Francis” which describes the life episodes of Saint Francis.
This painting depicts a total of ten Franciscan sisters grieving over the body of St. Francis in front of the monastic church of S. Damiano, before proceeding the funeral to the city of Assisi.
In the image, St. Clare is manoeuvring her hand tenderly where the wound lies in St. Francis’s body. The nuns are also seen dotting the figure.
This painting shows vivid images with high colour gradation. Another remarkable element here is the architectural composition and the facade of the church.
The nuns and the two central figures are all seen in deep agony; trembling lips reveal the lamentation and the pang of St. Francis’s death.
Giotto has masterfully attempted to make the most humane picture, disregarding the earlier stiffness of characters in the bygone years. This painting successfully evokes emotions in the viewer.
It is now proudly placed in the Upper Basilica of San Francesco.
2. Joachim’s Dream (1313)
The Giotto painting’s of Joachim’s Dream looks like a still from a play where Joachim is seen perched outside his hut, oblivious to all else. Joachim and Anna, his spouse, seemingly had a happy marital life and were well to do.
They were not short of anything in their married life but failed to the couple and co-produced a successor to their wealth; Anna was unable to conceive a child.
It was then that Joachim parted with Anna to go to the countryside where he prayed to the merciful to have a child.
Shortly after, an angel descended from heaven to share the message that their prayers were answered and that would consummate their marriage.
They named their daughter Mary who was raised in the Temple of Jerusalem. Giotto’s painting of Joachim’s Dream is one of the most revered paintings of his time.
He seems to have purposefully alleviated the position of the topmost sheep while a few are placed on the ground.
The shepherds towards the extreme left, inclined towards the centre staged angel is an attempt to project the shepherds’ interest and to focus on the angel solely.
It exemplifies his dexterity as an artist and his ability to evoke emotions through paintings. Also, the roof above Joachim is made two dimensional which was intended to add real character to the painting.
It was frescoed on the walls of Scrovegni Chapel which boasts the magnificence till date.
3.Adoration of the Magi (1306)
One of the pieces that frame together the cycle of Life of Christ is the Adoration of the Magi. It is positioned at the centre of the south wall.
It is adored by subtle colours and vivid details, but the real catch is the quaint luminous star darting forth, gleaming before the mundane navy blue sky.
Also known widely as the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Kings, it is speculated that Giotto drew his inspiration to top the painting with the comet after Halley’s Comet that appeared in 1301.
This scene is seemingly a congregation of people around Joseph and Mary, adoring their child, Jesus.
Giotto has dramatized the emotions on everyone’s faces, one of the key components of a typical Giotto painting.
It is apparent that the painter has stroked his brushes with utmost precision and detail as we can point out that the smiling camels and the adoration in their eyes.
Besides that, the use of subtle hues of beige on the background and the boulders while contrasting the use of a sharp red on St. Mary’s drapes emanate a warm atmosphere altogether.
4. Lamentation (1306)
One of the most magnificent paintings in Western art history is the Lamentation of Christ. The painting, as suggested by the title, depicts the mourning of Jesus by his family and friends.
Christ’s body is laid out after crucifixion, and he is seen resting at the hands of his mother, Mary while Mary Magdalene is at his feet, and John is devastated.
The painting renders utter grief which is witnessed in the expression of each of the figures. Their faces, the position of the hands, their hunched back-all account to the misery in which they are mournful of the loss of their beloved Jesus.
Especially Mother Mary is seen carrying trembling lips on whom falls the spotlight in the painting. The painting is also three-dimensional, providing ample space therewithin for the viewers to find a spot to fit in.
Believe it or not, this breakthrough technique of multi-dimensional paintings was what shunned the old traditional method.
5. The Ascension (1313)
The Ascension of Christ does not merely stand as a painting but is much more than that. This painting has captured that moment in history which marks Christ’s redemption and most importantly, the testimony of Jesus’s divinity as he ascends to Heaven.
This surreal moment is witnessed by the Apostles and Mother Mary. There are two angels not very far from the levitating Lord who help him through.
His hands are only half-seen while he the tip percolates beyond the frame itself showing his ascension. This was a technique devised in iconography and was used by many painters before and after him.
The colours on the fresco are cool with a vibrant blue and off whites that are calming and almost too serene to a viewer.
The painting is one of the chains of the cycle of Christ Redemption decorated on the walls of the Arena Chapel (Scrovegni) in Padua, Italy.
6. The Last Supper (1306)
In this painting, 13 figures, including Jesus Christ, are seated under a canopy about to instigate the New Testament.
This particular moment is regarded as pivotal in all Christian gospels and other sources.
The background is that there is a special event going on in the painting, that being the Eucharist or communion of the apostles and Christ.
However, he refrains from ostensibly showing any food or wine in the frame.
In the painting, while John the Evangelist is seen cradled in Christ’s arms, Judas has prostrated his hands and dipped into the dish at the same moment as Jesus which indicates the ominous threat that he is about to betray Jesus.
Giotto has placed all the participants compactly and painted with colours such as warm yellow and purple which hints at their closeness and fraternity, implying a harmonized and secure relationship that they shared.
The canopy above them and their proximity with each other refer to the compact relationship and their numbered participation in privacy despite the condemnation by the High Priesthood. The painting is also idolized for its ideal proportions and colour selection.
7. Madonna and Child (1325)
In Madonna and Child, Mary is seen holding her child, Jesus in her one arm and holds white roses on the other, while the infant clutches on her index finger and playfully reaches out to the roses.
This painting was made by Giotto in his late years and is a central part of the five-section altarpiece.
The template is a large gold leaf which indicates the realm of heaven and the white roses are a symbol of Mother Mary’s purity.
Baby Jesus is playful as ever and rather than upholding the traditional blessing sign he reaches out to the white roses in his mother’s hand.
This humanized characteristic signalled the end of the old Byzantine tradition and replaced it with a more intimate and relatable gesture.
8. The Last Judgement (1313)
The largest and most intricate and complex work of art in the Arena Chapel is his The Last Judgement.
The topmost part of the painting shows the Heaven where Jesus is seen casting out the last judgement in the middle of the apostles who are on either side of Him.
The lower part shows both the chosen and the damned on the left and right, respectively. The chosen ones on the left are brought to heaven, whereas the damned are sent to hell to suffer.
The angels, Michael and Raphael, are seen holding the cross right below Christ. At the bottom of the fresco, we can find the commissioner of the Chapel, Enrico Scrovagni himself, showing the model of the chapel of three Marys(the one at the middle being the Mother Mary) guided by a priest.
At the right part, the Prince of Hell, a monstrous figure is seen consuming the naked and the damned fellows in what is called Hell.
It is said that Enrico had the chapel made and frescoed with the cycle of life and passion of Jesus only to cleanse all the sins their family had committed over the years in the money business. It could be called as their ultimate salvage which is depicted in the fresco.
9. Flight into Egypt (c.1304-1306)
In this painting, we see Mother Mary, her child, Joseph and other figures take a voyage. Mother Mary is seen holding her child while Joseph is towards the right, making conversation with someone.
Here, Giotto has carved Mother Mary as the central figure showing her strength and also quite referential to Madonna and Child.
Giotto has cleverly monumentally used the background boulders to focus on Mother Mary, her dominance and determination.
While Joseph is nearly disposed into oblivion, the angel is also facing the Madonna and her child reiterating her power. The painter has tried to portray Mother Mary as the great protector of her child and the whole of the church at large.
10. Ognissanti Madonna (c.1310)
Painted by Giotto for the Ognissanti Church in Florence, Enthroned Madonna or Ognissanti Madonna is a hallmark painting of that era.
It broke the stereotypical archaisms by circumscribing Madonna and her child in a defined space as opposed to the floating mother and child in the original Madonna and Child.
For the first time, this image possessed characters placed sort of most humanely with perspective and ideal proportions.
Madonna descends the throne, and he drapes around her tentatively mark their volumes. It is more significant to the mythical, flatter figures of the Byzantine style.
She is seen holding her child in her lap, just like any ordinary mother would do. This painting immediately resonates with all humans.
As for the angels, they are placed on the forefront yet deemphasized. They are seen singing to Mother Mary in the painting.
Although the golden backdrop and hierarchy of his characters do flash the memories of traditional style, his innovative humanized figures and limited spaces mark the beginning of a new style 14-century paintings.
This painting can still be found in the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence, Italy.
Entailing the advent of a revolutionary style painting, Giotto, the gifted artist, breathed life into paintings by manoeuvring his brushstrokes in ways attributing to nature itself.
He decisively took a detour from the early Byzantine style only enriching his paintings with characteristic human figures and surging emotions which had not been brought about for almost two hundred years.
His paintings, considered as supremely masterful, are studded in the Arena Chapel and dots other parts of Florence.