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Giotto di Bondona - "The Father of European Painting"


The poet Dante (1265-1321) is no stranger to many people and was called "the last of the Middle Ages and the first of the new century" by Siges. However, in fourteenth-century Italy, there was a painter who could be mentioned in the same breath as Dante, namely Giotto di Bondone.

Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1377). The Italians believe that thanks to the outstanding creativity of these two geniuses, a new period of culture and art were ushered in. Giotto became a clear starting point in the minds of later generations, and from him on, the mystery of the Middle Ages faded, and art history began to write the saga of the great artists.
It is said that Giotto was born into a poor peasant family and spent his childhood herding sheep. It was not until he was 12 that the great painter Cimabue, stumbled upon his genius. He discovered that the sheep were vividly depicted on the rocks by this ordinary-looking child and rushed to discuss with Giotto's father to get him into his studio, and from then on Cimabue took up painting. Cimabue was right, and Giotto was rich in magic that gave life to his objects.

Mourning for Christ

Mourning for Christ is one of the decorative frescoes he painted for the chapel of Arena in Padua, Italy, between 1305 and 1306. In this painting, the flat and abstracted feeling brought by Byzantine painting disappears. Instead of a symmetrical row of figures, a moving scene expressing the heart and emotions unfolds, with Christ and the Virgin in the lower-left corner as the focal core.

St. John, in the center of the composition, with his arms stretched back in despair and grief, shows a perspective that has been discontinued for almost a thousand years, even though Giotto did not know much about the laws of anatomy and perspective at this time. The figures become rounded, the transitions appear softer and more structured where light meets dark, and underneath the robes, we can really feel the thickness and warmth of the bodies and understand clearly how they make their every gesture. Although the emphasis is still on the solid depiction of lines and corridors, we can already feel a certain distance between the figures in the closeup and the far-away. These stylistic approaches with a sense of solidity and sculpture are another manifestation of the effort to pursue the illusion of depth in flat space.


Not only that, Giotto's characters, began to have a strong human touch. He not only knew how to express the emotions of his characters but also knew how to grasp the important events of life. If the painting was still a book for the illiterate at that time, then Giotto's book was undoubtedly the most touching. The picture depicts one of the most tragic moments in the story of the New Testament, when The tortured body of Christ is taken down from the cross, pale, stiff, and powerless, with his head, hands and feet to be lifted. The Madonna held him in her loving arms; her mother's sorrowful look and warm arms stood in stark contrast to the cold body. Others could not contain their emotions, either sobbing uncontrollably or keeping silent. Although the two women in the near distance turned their backs, the audience could also feel their grief. A dead tree in the far corner adds to the smell of death. In the gloomy sky, a group of angels joined the mourning ranks, and their expressions and cries became more and more heart-rending. No one can fail to be moved by such a scene, and the painter makes us not just know a story, but experience the entire crucifixion of Christ as if it were a natural scene. He convincingly allows the viewer to see how each character expresses their grief in this tragic scene.

Giotto's ability to tell a story around a theme in a meaningful way will surely impress his readers and audiences alike. For he brought them to a place where they had never been before, where the words of the Bible could be more deeply understood and experienced through a common human emotion. The audience's enthusiasm was aroused as never before; they were eager to see more works painted by great painters and thus to be shaken to the core. At the time, Giotto was so famous that people were interested in his news so much as they are interested in today's superstars so we can still learn today that Giotto, despite his small size and ordinary appearance, was witty, intelligent, and fond of making jokes. It was an unprecedented phenomenon in art history, and the artists began to take on their personalities and appearance. Moreover, Giotto became very rich and socially prominent because of his paintings. He became acquainted with the Bishop of Rome and was called a great friend by the King of Naples. The city of Florence even granted him the title of supreme painter and entrusted him with the design of all the important buildings and public art in the town. From then on, the artist began to enjoy the independent status, and art finally broke the shackles of rigid form and returned to the living traditions of ancient Greece and Rome.

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