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750° ANNIVERSARY OF GIOTTO DI BONDONE

Florence is celebrating 750° anniversary of Giotto di Bondone better known as Giotto, born in Vicchio of  Mugello (small village 28km north of Florence)in 1267,defined by Boccaccio as “the best painter of the world”. 

We can find a lot of funny stories regarding Giotto’s life: according to Giorgio Vasari, he was a shepherd boy and was discovered by the great Florentine painter Cimabue while drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock: the sheep were so lifelike that Cimabue approached Giotto’s father and asked if he could take the boy on as an apprentice in his workshop in Florence.

Vasari tells also of one occasion when Cimabue was absent from the workshop and Giotto painted a remarkably lifelike fly on a face in the painting Cimabue was working on. Later when Cimabue returned, he tried in vain several times to brush the fly off!

From Vasari’s “Lives” we also find out that when the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill, Giotto drew a red circle so perfect that it seemed as though it was drawn using a pair of compasses and instructed the messenger to send it to the Pope. The messenger departed ill pleased, not doubting that he had been made a fool of. The messenger brought other artists' drawings back to the Pope in addition to Giotto's. When the messenger related how he had made the circle without moving his arm and without the aid of compasses the Pope and his courtiers were amazed at how Giotto's skill greatly surpassed all of his contemporaries.

In Florence there was also a proverb saying “You are rounder than the O of Giotto”

Besides these stories Giotto was for sure one of the most innovative and revolutionary painters of his time, both because he introduced for the first time the perspective ( enhanced by the introduction of landscapes and architectural elements, and this was another innovation) and because  he overturned the traditional Byzantine iconography that used only stylized or elongated figures always static and two-dimensional.

In Giotto’s artwork we can admire for the first time solidly three-dimensional characters, who have faces and gestures that are based on close observation, and are clothed not in swirling formalized drapery, but in garments that hang naturally and have form and weight, thanks to a skilfull use of  “chiaroscuro” technique.

Giotto's depiction of the human face and emotion sets his work apart from that of his contemporaries because his characters show real feeling and suffering and not a triumphant look.

Moreover Giotto was the first one to picture the middle class people - a social rank rising in that period- so that for the first time they were not only  spectator but also player of the painting.

About Giotto we can also find out some unpleasant notes: Giorgio Vasari, according to a description of Boccaccio, says that “ nobody else in Florence was more ugly than Giotto” and tradition holds that he was a very wise administrator of his goods even too money–hungry( seems also that he was a money-lender).

Anyway he deserves credit for having depicted the first kiss represented in the Italian art, that’s the kiss between Gioacchino and Anna painted in the Scrovegni Chapel.

The fame of Giotto exceeds the centuries and the universe so much so that to him were dedicated a crater on Mercury and a minor planet named “7367 Giotto”!

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