Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter II: Giotto.

Onward with Vasari: I'm slowing reading an abridged edition of his The Lives of the Artists (1550) and the next chapter, following Cimabue, is Cimabue's follower Giotto.

The Life of Giotto, Florentine Painter,
Sculptor, and Architect.
[1266/7 - 1337]

That very obligation which the craftsmen of painting owe to nature, who serves continually as model to those who are ever wresting the good from her best and most beautiful features and striving to counterfeit and to imitate her, should be owed, in my belief, to Giotto, painter of Florence, for the reason that, after the methods of good paintings and their outlines had lain buried for so many years under the ruins of the wars, he alone, although born among inept craftsmen, by the gift of God revived that art, which had come to a grievous pass, and brought it to such a form as could be called good. And truly it was a very great miracle that that age, gross and inept, should have had strength to work in Giotto in a fashion so masterly, that design, whereof the men of those times had little or no knowledge, was restored completely to life by means of him. 
Vasari continues, giving a biography of Giotto, born in Vespignano (near Florence) to Bondone, "a tiller of the soil and a humble person". Giotto soon showed himself to have talent and intelligence, and at a young age would draw and sketch what he saw, when, for example, he watched over his sheep. By chance Cimabue discovered him and saw his sketches, and he was impressed and asked Bondone if he could take Giotto as an apprentice. Bondone consented and,
... assisted by nature and taught by Cimabue, the child not only equalled the manner of his master, but became so good an imitator of nature that he banished completely that rude Greek manner and revived the modern and good art of painting, introducing the portraying well from nature of living people, which had not been used for more than two hundred years. 
Vasari then describes some of Giotto's works, some of which I've been able to find online and some I'm afraid not. Before I share them, I must share this anecdote from Vasari:
It is said that when Giotto was still a young man with Cimabue, he once painted upon the nose of a figure that Cimabue had completed a fly which looked so natural that when his master returned to continue his work, he tried more than once to drive the fly away with his hand, convinced that it was real, before he realised his mistake. I could relate many other pranks played by Giotto and many of his witty retorts, but I want these to suffice here, since they treat matters pertinent to art, leaving the rest to Franco and other writers. 
And now, some of my favourite Giotto works - I have struggled to pick the ones I like them best, in fact I liked every single I saw! Here, then, is my top 17:

L'entrata in Gerusalemme [The Entry into Jerusalem] (1305).

Giuda la ricezione dei pagamenti per il suo tradimento [Judas receiving payment for his betrayal] (1304-6).

San Francesco predica un sermone di Papa Onorio III [Saint Francis Preaching a sermon to Pope Honorius III] (1297-99).
La prova del fuoco, San Francesco offre a camminare attraverso il fuoco, per convertire il sultano d'Egitto [The Trial By Fire, St. Francis Offers To Walk Through Fire, To Convert The Sultan Of Egypt]
Conferma della Regola [Confirmation of the Rule] (1297-99).
San Francesco Dando il suo mantello ad un povero [St. Francis giving his mantle to a poor man] (1297-99).
San Francesco predica agli uccelli [St. Francis preaching to the birds] (1297-99).
La visione dei Troni [The vision of thrones] (1297-99).
La morte e l'Ascensione di San Francesco [The Death and ascension of St. Francis] (1300).
L'Ascensione [The ascension] (1305).
Il Battesimo di Cristo [The baptism of Christ] (1305).
Lamento (Il Compianto di Cristo) [Lamentation (The mourning of Christ)] (1304-6).
Ascensione del Evangelista [Ascension Of The Evangelist] (1320).
Natività [Nativity] (1311-20).
La Crocifissione [The Crucifixion] (1311-20).
La nascita della Vergine [The birth of the Virgin].
Crocifissione [The Crucifixion] (1290-1300).

The next post (in the next few weeks) will be on The Life of Simone [Martini] of Siena and The Life of Duccio, Sienese Painter.


  1. Striking pictures! There's something about the perspective I used that's quite attractive; he'sfamous for using it, I know, but I'm not. Sure why... But the figures andbuildings do jump out at one, it seems to me...

    1. They are very striking and I love the blue (as you can see I'm not much of an art critic!) :)

  2. Oh, I just love Giotto! He was supposed to be a very nice man too. While initially his paintings don't appear to be my kind of "thing", surprisingly they take my breath away and are some of my favourites!

    1. I love Giotto too - this was my introduction to him. Of all the artists in this book though I've only heard of six (out of 35!) so I hope I'll gather up some more favourites when I'm done! I can see why Vasari said Giotto was better than Cimabue - I liked Cimabue (the gold was very striking) but Giotto is certainly much better I think :)


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