Giotto di Bondone
- LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0011
- LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0011
Giotto di Bondone is universally acknowledged to be an artist of surpassing genius, celebrated for his extraordinary ability to reimagine familiar narratives and to render them afresh, and to imbue his protagonists with moral gravity and psychological complexity, capturing the inner lives of his figures with stunning acuity. But he stands apart from his contemporaries in late medieval Italian painting in several respects, not merely artistic. One is the hyperbolic claims made for him by his admirers in subsequent generations, as early as the mid-trecento and intensifying with Vasari: Giotto as the single-handed reviver of a moribund artistic tradition. This depiction of Giotto as a kind of aesthetic thaumaturge clouds our understanding of the artist’s contributions and does an injustice to the painters of the 1280s and 1290s, sometimes anonymous, whose works provide an important context for Giotto’s. Still more vexing are the sharp, at times polemical, scholarly debates about his artistic production, which still inflame academic discourse today. Though he and his assistants worked all over the Italian peninsula, from Milan to Naples, both in fresco and panel painting, two fresco cycles dominate the vast scholarly literature on the artist and are thus represented by the greatest number of entries in this article. The first is a relatively early work, the cycle in the Arena Chapel in Padua, one of the few works universally ascribed to him and his uncontested masterpiece; the literature on the chapel is most extensive. The second is the St. Francis cycle in the Upper Church of S. Francesco, Assisi, where Giotto’s participation has been the focus of heated debate for a century. Though these two fresco cycles have most fully engaged scholarly attention, important analyses of other works by the artist and his workshop are included as well, listed alphabetically by site (panel paintings are listed by their original location, not the museum that houses them today). This article attempts to provide a map both through the artist’s critical fortunes and through the thicket of attributional controversies, as well as providing a guide to the wealth of studies that address other aspects of the artist’s production, ranging from technical analyses to interpretative works.
A range of studies—monographs and exhibition catalogues on the artist, as well as works of broader scope on trecento painting—offer assessments of Giotto and his oeuvre, though there is little consistency in defining it. Generally, Italian scholars (Previtali 1993, Flores d’Arcais 2012, and the authors whose work appears in Tartuferi 2000 and Tomei 2009, both of which are exhibition catalogues) take an expansive view of the artist’s work, assigning more to him and his workshop than do more-cautious British and American scholars. Maginnis 1997 is not a monograph on Giotto but is an important reassessment of trecento painting and Giotto’s place within it, by an eminent scholar. Poeschke 2003 includes a thoughtful discussion of Giotto and photos of reproduces all the fresco cycles associated with him as well as others by leading painters. The first volume of Schwarz, et al. 2004–2008 offers the most thorough study of the artist’s life to date (including archival records, inventories, wills, chronicles, and letters); the second volume is equally thorough on Giotto’s oeuvre, though some of the positions taken by the authors are controversial; it includes an extensive compilation of documents related to the Arena Chapel.
Flores d’Arcais, Francesca. Giotto. 2d ed. Translated by Raymond Rosenthal. New York and London: Abbeville, 2012.
Richly illustrated compendium of Giotto’s oeuvre, broadly defined. The second edition includes a new preface in which the author considers Zanardi’s Cantiere di Giotto and discusses the efforts to restore the Assisi frescoes following the earthquake of 1997. The text is otherwise unchanged from the first edition of 1995. Second edition in Italian was published in 2011 (Milan: Federico Motta Editore).
Maginnis, Hayden B. J. Painting in the Age of Giotto: A Historical Reevaluation. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.
Acute historiographic and historical study, reconsidering the leading masters of the early and mid-trecento; includes a trenchant critique of the Vasarian tradition of Giotto as the dominant innovator of the period, and a fresh approach to the complexities surrounding issues of attribution.
Poeschke, Joachim. Wandmalerei der Giottozeit in Italien, 1280–1400. Munich: Hirmer, 2003.
Superb photographic coverage of major fresco cycles by Giotto, his predecessors, and his contemporaries, as well as painters of the later trecento; sites include Assisi, Rome, Padua, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa. A thoughtful introduction is followed by succinct but useful analyses of each cycle, diagrams of the programs, and texts of inscriptions. English edition titled Italian Frescoes, the Age of Giotto, 1280–1400 (New York: Abbeville, 2005).
Previtali, Giovanni. Giotto e la sua bottega. 3d ed. Revised by Alessandro Conti. Milan: Fabbri Editori, 1993.
Comprehensive monograph on the painter’s life and oeuvre, long a standard reference; though dated in some respects, still worth consulting for its photographic coverage, its catalogue (with helpful diagrams of fresco programs), and its compilation of early sources and documents.
Schwarz, Michael Viktor, Pia Theis, and Michaela Zöschg, eds. Giottus pictor.2 vols. Vienna: Böhlau, 2004–2008.
Vol. 1 (Giottos Leben, edited by Schwarz and Theis) of this two-volume work opens with an assessment of Ghiberti and Vasari’s accounts of Giotto, then turns to a detailed account of the painter’s life and work. Vol. 2 (Giottos Werke, edited by Schwarz and Zöschg) is a thorough consideration of Giotto’s oeuvre and the works variously ascribed to the artist. While some will question certain positions taken here regarding dating and interpretation of works, this is a major study, worth careful attention.
Tartuferi, Angelo, ed. Giotto: Bilancio critico di sessant’anni di studi e ricerche. Florence: Giunti, 2000.
The focus in this exhibition catalogue is on issues of attribution, with much attention to Giotto’s workshop; includes essays by leading scholars and detailed catalogue entries. An accompanying guide to the exhibition includes briefer entries in Italian and English (Tartuferi, Guida alla mostra e itinerario fiorentino / Guide to the Exhibition; Florentine Itinerary).
Tomei, Alessandro, ed. Giotto e il Trecento: Il più sovrano maestro stato in dipintura.2 vols. Milan: Skira, 2009.
Catalogue with beautiful photographs of the 145 works in the exhibition: panel paintings, mosaics, stained glass, detached frescoes, sculpture, miniatures, and liturgical objects (by Giotto, his workshop, and related artists). Twenty-eight essays by leading scholars, addressing a wide range of topics: Giotto’s activity in Assisi, Umbria, Rome, Padua, Rimini, Bologna, Naples, and Milan, as well as miniature painting, sculpture, and architecture related to Giotto.
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