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 Francesco Giotto di Bondone  (c. 1267 - 1337)

/ JOHT-toe di bohn-DOE-nay/


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Lived/Active: Italy      Known for: religious painting-frescoes and alterpieces

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Giotto di Bondone was born in 1266 in Colle de Vespignano, near Florence, Italy.  His father was a farmer and Giotto was an awkward, conspicuously ugly man who looked more like a farmer than an artist.  When he was about ten years old, according to legend, he was sitting in a field tending his father’s sheep and idly drawing with a sharp stone on a flat rock when a passing traveler stopped to look at the sketch.  The traveler, who turned out to be Cimabue, one of the finest painters of his time, was so impressed that he took Giotto into his studio as an apprentice.  There Giotto’s talents developed spectacularly and his career took him to Rome,  Padua, Arezzo, Assisi and Naples.   

When Giotto grew up art was a possession of the Church.  Painters, deriving their style from the antiquated two-dimensionable Byzantine paintings and mosaics, had been adorning church walls with unreal, rigid, flat-looking images.  It was Giotto who cracked the tradition.  The people he created lived and suffered, moved by believable emotion.  From his paintings bloomed the whole humanistic art of the Renaissance. 

Giotto’s example was crucial to the development of later Florentine painting, and his preoccupation with the realities of the human figure and the visible world became the dominant concern of the Florentine Renaissance.   

Giotto was a great and famous man in Italy.  He was acclaimed not only by princes and poets but also by the plain people who, without books or magazines or movies, relied on paintings to tell them stories.  Around 1296, when he was thirty, Giotto painted the life of St. Francis for the Upper Church of St. Francis of Assisi.  People crowded into the church to look at the frescoes.  After his success at Assisi, Giotto was deluged with commissions to decorate churches, chapels and palaces.  He traveled with a swarm of assistants, pupils, his wife and their family of eight children, who were often seen romping around him as he worked.   

A good businessman, Giotto was well paid and city rulers competed furiously for his services.  He stayed in Florence for the rest of his life, spending his time in designing and building the cathedral bell tower.  In 1337 at the age of seventy, rich and respected, Giotto died.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:   
From the internet, Microsoft Encarta   
Life Magazine, date unknown

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Known as the father of modern painting, Giotto di Bondone earned this reputation because he broke away from strictly allegorical interpretations and painted figures that seemed human with emotions, and in execution used a flat surface in a way that suggested three-dimensional space.  He treated the human body with dignity and respect.  It is interesting that his peers seemed immediately to recognize and encourage this uniqueness.  However, it was seventy-five years after studying with Giotto that his student, Masaccio, furthered Giotto's methods of perspective.

Giotto did frescoes, only three which are signed by him.  Known locations of his frescoes are Padua in the Arena Chapel and Florence with the Bardi and Peruzzi frescoes in the Chapel in Santa Croce, and the Ognissanti Madonna for the Church of All Saints.  It is asserted, but not proven, that the 28 frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis at Assissi are by him. 

Giotto was born about 20 miles north of Florence, Italy in the small town of Mugello.  Little is known about his background except that he likely was apprenticed to Cimabue and was working in Florence by 1280, when he was age 13.  The story, which may be apocryphal, is that Cimabue discovered Giotto when he saw him drawing with a sharp stone on a rock along the road.

By 1312, Giotto was a member of the Florentine Guild, composed of painters, doctors and apothecaries.  He did painting in Naples for the King between 1329 and 1332, and then in 1334, became the Chief Architect for the Florentine Cathedral.  In this capacity, he did some of the design and statue work.

Other locations where he worked included Rome, Padua, Milan, Rimini, Assisi and Ravenna.


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