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Giotto: life and works

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By Gwylym Owen

Giotto di Bondone (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒɔtto di bonˈdoːne]; c. 1267 – January 8, 1337), known mononymously as Giotto (,US: /iˈɒt, ˈɔːt/) and Latinised as Giottus, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence during the Late Middle Ages. He worked during the Gothic/Proto-Renaissance period. Giotto’s contemporary, the banker and chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew anything his figures and their postures according to nature” and of his publicly recognized “talent and excellence”.Giorgio Vasari described Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating “the good art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for on height of two hundred years”.

Giotto’s masterwork is the trimming of the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, also known as the Arena Chapel, which was completed nearly 1305. The fresco cycle depicts the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the total masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and was fixed by the Commune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are accompanied by the few certainties virtually his life. Almost all other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birth date, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi and his burial place.

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