Giotto di Bondone

Marriage of the Virgin by Giotto

Public Domain/Wikimedia

Giotto di Bondone was known for being the earliest artist to paint more realistic figures rather than the stylized artwork of the medieval and Byzantine eras Giotto is considered by some scholars to be the most important Italian painter of the 14th century. His focus on emotion and natural representations of human figures would be emulated and expanded upon by successive artists, leading Giotto to be called the "Father of the Renaissance."

Places of Residence and Influence

Italy: Florence

Important Dates

  • Born: c. 1267
  • Died: Jan. 8, 1337

About Giotto di Bondone

Though many stories and legends have circulated about Giotto and his life, very little can be confirmed as fact. He was born in Colle di Vespignano, near Florence, in 1266 or 1267, or, if Vasari is to be believed, 1276. His family was probably farmers. Legend has it that while he was tending goats he drew a picture on a rock and that the artist Cimabue, who happened to be passing by, saw him at work and was so impressed with the boy's talent that he took him into his studio as an apprentice. Whatever the actual events, Giotto appears to have been trained by an artist of great skill, and his work is clearly influenced by Cimabue.

Giotto is believed to have been short and ugly. He was personally acquainted with Boccaccio, who recorded his impressions of the artist and several stories of his wit and humor; these were included by Giorgio Vasari in the chapter on Giotto in his Lives of the Artists. Giotto was married and at the time of his death, he was survived by at least six children.

The Works of Giotto

There exists no documentation to confirm any artwork as having been painted by Giotto di Bondone. However, most scholars agree on several of his paintings. As an assistant to Cimabue, Giotto is believed to have worked on projects in Florence and other places in Tuscany, and in Rome. Later, he also traveled to Naples and Milan.

Giotto almost undoubtedly painted the Ognissanti Madonna (currently in the Uffizi in Florence) and the fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel (also known as the Scrovegni Chapel) at Padua, considered by some scholars to be his masterwork. In Rome, Giotto is believed to have created the mosaic of Christ Walking on the Water over the entrance to St. Peter’s, the altarpiece at the Vatican Museum, and the fresco of Boniface VIII Proclaiming the Jubilee in St. John Lateran. 

Perhaps his best-known work is that done in Assisi, in the Upper Church of San Francesco: a cycle of 28 frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. This monumental work depicts the entire life of the saint, instead of isolated events, as had been the tradition in ​earlier medieval artwork. The authorship of this cycle, like most of the works attributed to Giotto, has been called into question; but it is very likely that he not only worked in the church but designed the cycle and painted most of the frescoes.

Other important works by Giotto include the Sta Maria Novella Crucifix, completed sometime in the 1290s, and the Life of St. John the Baptist fresco cycle, completed c. 1320.

Giotto was also known as a sculptor and architect. Though there is no concrete evidence for these assertions, he was appointed chief architect of the workshop of Florence cathedral in 1334.

The Fame of Giotto

Giotto was a much-sought-after artist during his lifetime. He appears in works by his contemporary Dante as well as Boccaccio. Vasari said of him, "Giotto restored the link between art and nature."

Giotto di Bondone died in Florence, Italy, on January 8, 1337.

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Snell, Melissa. "Giotto di Bondone." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Snell, Melissa. (2023, April 5). Giotto di Bondone. Retrieved from Snell, Melissa. "Giotto di Bondone." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).