Giotto di Bondone

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Giotto monument in Florence
Fresco in the Cappella degli Scrovegni , Padua : Jesus drives the traders out of the temple .
Fresco in the Lateran Basilica (detail): . Pope Boniface VIII calls 1300 the first Holy Year of .

Giotto di Bondone (* 1267 or 1276 in Vespignano near Vicchio ; † January 8, 1337 in Florence ), also known as Giotto , was an Italian painter and builder. He is considered the decisive pioneer of the Italian Renaissance (Rinascimento).


Sources show that Giotto grew up as the son of the blacksmith Bondone in Florence. Most experts believe that Giotto was his real name. Others think this is a short form of Ambrogio (Ambrogiotto) or Angelo (Angiolotto).

Lorenzo Ghiberti's Commentarii (artist's stories ) written around 1450 , which were edited by Giorgio Vasari in the middle of the 16th century and thus became popular, testify to his life . There it is reported that Giotto grew up as a poor boy in Vespignano in Mugello (near Florence ) and was discovered by the painter Cimabue drawing his sheep on a stone while he was tending them. He drew so faithfully that even experienced artists were amazed. These reports are based on the idea of ​​the Renaissance that artistic geniuses are born as such.

Giotto probably entered Cimabue's workshop as an apprentice. Soon he received orders not only from Florence. Pope Benedict XI. brought him to Rome in 1303 , where he worked for over ten years; and King Robert of Naples took him into his service. He eventually became famous as an architect and sculptor , was known as an esthete and poet. The painter Cennino Cennini admired him in his work on painting as a conqueror of the “ maniera greca / byzantina ” and praised his technical skills. The recognition of his contemporaries was also expressed in material success: Giotto was one of the dignitaries , he owned real estate in Florence and Rome.

Campanile (bell tower) in Florence

After 1320 he returned to Florence, where he subsequently had an economically flourishing workshop. In 1334 he became the leading builder at the Florence Cathedral . Its campanile bears his name, although his successors (he did not live to see the completion himself), such as Andrea Pisano , deviated considerably from his plans.

Giotto died in 1337 while working on a Last Judgment in the Bargello Chapel in Florence.

Giotto is also mentioned by Boccaccio in the Decamerone (6th day, 5th story) and by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy ; he was friends with both of them. The poet Petrarch owned a virgin and Giotto's child and expressed his conviction that every art connoisseur should be entranced by her. Even Michelangelo has grown from Giotto's "Ascension of St. John" in Santa Croce can be excited in Florence, as a study shows its hand.


An artist anecdote says about Giotto that one day he painted a small fly on a work of art by his master Cimabue, which looked so deceptively real that Cimabue tried several times to chase it away before he recognized the illusion. Cimabue is said to have believed that Giotto had surpassed him. The fly became a symbol of artistic progress.

All of Giotto's work deals with religious subjects. He is considered to be “the real founder of Italian painting”, especially Tuscan fresco painting . “ He was an innovator both in technology (he used the fig milk and egg yolk ) and in the color scheme; he gave the colors brightness and clarity ... ”(according to Meyer's Konversationslexikon from 1888). The most important aspects of his work, however, are the high naturalness and liveliness of his figures, as well as the preparation of the perspective .

In doing so, he overcame the iconographic norms of Byzantine painting that had influenced Western painters for generations. He initiated the development that eventually led to the realism typical of post-Gothic art in Italy ( Rinascimento ) . "It was Giotto who oriented himself towards the present and the real ... the worldly gains space and expansion, just as Giotto in the sense of his time gave burlesque a place alongside the pathetic" ( Hegel ).

While two-dimensional figures were characteristic of conventional painting, which were arranged as symbols in front of a flat background decorated with symbols, Giotto placed sculptured individuals in a perspective space that maintain relationships with one another. By equipping his figures with width and drapery (as the sculptors had already done in Bamberg , Magdeburg and Naumburg Cathedral ), he gave them a natural-looking volume and weight. This can already be seen clearly from the crucifixion in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence - one of his early works. According to Vasari, his portrayal of St. Francis in the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi (see fig.) Was even too natural (and thus too secular) for some critics.

Lamentation of Christ, Cappella degli Scrovegni , (Padua)

Giotto's main work (and best preserved) is probably the large cycle of frescoes in the Cappella degli Scrovegni all ' Arena ( Scrovegni Chapel ) in Padua , which consists of more than 100 scenes from the life of Mary and the life of Jesus , especially the passion story , and was created from 1304 to 1306. Giotto also painted elements of the architecture that simulate niches for the viewer ( trompe-l'œil ) in which allegorical figures appear to be. Masaccio and Michelangelo were directly influenced by it.

Adoration of the Magi, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Padua)

A famous scene from this cycle is the Adoration of the Magi , in which a comet-like star hovers in the sky (probably, next to the Bayeux Tapestry , one of the earliest depictions of Halley's Comet , which could be seen with the naked eye a few years earlier) .

Basilica of San Francesco , upper church with frescoes attributed to Giotto

The “ Ognissanti Madonna ” in the Uffizi (see illustration) also comes from this period and is the only larger panel by Giotto that has survived.

It is also noteworthy that before the time of Giotto's fresco cycle in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua, sky was only very rarely painted blue and the color blue was only used extremely sparingly. This is due, at least in part, to a lack of affordable blue pigments ; Ground lapis lazuli , which Giotto used for his fresco cycle, was incredibly expensive and came from "beyond the sea" (therefore also called ultramarine ).

His contemporary Duccio di Buoninsegna in Siena is praised for the sympathetic and human, the individual expression. Giotto, on the other hand, gave the viewer of his works a feeling of tactility and depth in space. It was logically he who turned away from the traditional gold background and painted the sky over the landscape blue. He also made the first serious attempts to use perspective foreshortening in landscapes and buildings.

Giotto's achievement is unique in its time; It was only two generations later that early Renaissance artists such as Andrea Orcagna , Altichiero da Zevio or Masaccio were able to build on the development he had initiated.

For some works it is still a matter of debate whether they can be attributed to Giotto; this applies, for example, to the legend of St. Francis in Assisi. Some works are now predominantly viewed as works from Giotto's workshop.

According to one of the many legends surrounding Giotto, he showed an envoy from the Pope who wanted a work sample nothing other than a circle drawn by hand, which could not have been made better with a compass (“Giottos O").

The death of St. Francis, Bardi Chapel


See also

In honor of Giotto, scientific projects of today have also been given his name, see Giotto . But also confectionery with his name, mini pastry balls.


  • Luciano Bellosi: Giotto (= the great masters of art). Scala, Bagno a Ripoli (Florence) 2014, ISBN 978-88-6637-193-9 . [Popular Science; richly illustrated]
  • Miklos Boskovits:  Giotto di Bondone. In: Mario Caravale (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 55:  Ginammi – Giovanni da Crema. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2000.
  • Frank Büttner: Giotto and the origins of the modern image concept. Painting and the science of seeing in Italy around 1300. WBG - Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2013, ISBN 978-3-534-25753-9 .
  • Samuel Y. Edgerton: Giotto and the invention of the third dimension. Painting and geometry on the eve of the scientific revolution. Fink, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7705-3884-6 .
  • Max Imdahl : Giotto. Arena frescoes. Iconography, iconology, iconics (= theory and history of literature and the fine arts. Texts and treatises, vol. 60). Fink, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-7705-1970-1 (2nd, expanded edition, ibid. 1988, ISBN 3-7705-2506-X ).
  • Nikolaus Pevsner : European architecture. From the beginning to the present. 3. Edition. Prestel, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-7913-0137-3 .
  • Giuliano Pisani: I volti segreti di Giotto. Le rivelazioni della Cappella degli Scrovegni. Rizzoli, Milan 2008, ISBN 978-88-17-02722-9 (also: Editoriale Programma, Treviso 2015, ISBN 978-88-6643-353-8 ).
  • Giuliano Pisani: La concezione agostiniana del programma teologico della Cappella degli Scrovegni. In: Francesco Bottin (ed.): Alberto da Padova e la cultura degli agostiniani. Padova University Press, Padua 2014, ISBN 978-88-6938-009-9 , pp. 215-268.
  • Michael Viktor Schwarz : Giotto (= Beck series. 2503). Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58248-6 [Very good and short introduction to the latest research].
  • Michael Viktor Schwarz, Pia Theis: Giottus Pictor. 2 volumes. Böhlau, Vienna et al. Böhlau, 2004–2008;
  • Rolf Toman (ed.): The art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture - sculpture - painting - drawing. Könemann, Cologne 1994, ISBN 3-89508-054-3 .
  • Alessandro Tomei (Ed.): Giotto e il Trecento. Il più sovrano maestro in dipintura. Catalogo (Roma, Complesso del Vittoriano, 6 marzo - 29 giugno 2009). 2 volumes. Skira, Milan 2009, ISBN 978-88-572-0117-7 .
  • Giorgio Vasari : The life of Cimabue, Giotto and Pietro Cavallini. Newly translated into German by Victoria Lorini. Edited, commented by introduced by Fabian Jonietz (Cimabue and Giotto) and Anna Magnago Lampugnani (Pietro Cavallini). Wagenbach, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-8031-5064-6 .

Web links

Commons : Giotto di Bondone  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : frescoes of the arena chapel painted by Giotto  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anna Maria Spiazzi: Giotto. The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Skira, Milan 2004, ISBN 978-88-8491-847-5 , p. 9
  2. National Gallery (English)
  3. The small encyclopedia , Encyclios-Verlag, Zurich, 1950, volume 1, page 619