Giotto, the artist who revolutionized medieval art

Perspective is a word with a double meaning, I am using here the sense of representation of image, views, and panoramas. Byzantine art and later medieval art had characteristics such as the flattened image, the religious motifs, the use of icons. Illuminations, an art used to decorate the beginning of text chapters, brought this type of image in a two-dimensional (2D) representation.

In the Middle Ages, the representations of figures began to go from a flat figure, common in Byzantine art and its mosaics, to one of the first artists to be concerned with the problem of vision in perspective. This artist was the architect and painter Giotto di Bondone. Seeking to unite the decoration in frescoes with the architecture of buildings, mainly churches, Giotto begins to think about creating three plans for the actions of the characters in his paintings.

The mosaic of Santa Sofia, is the most famous of the Byzantine art, and shows how the planned figures were:

Mosaic of Santa Sofia.

Comparing with one of the frescoes painted by Giotto, we can see how the perspective was evolving in the Middle Ages:

Presentation of Mary at the Temple, Giotto.

The characters interact with each other, each one has a role in the figure, we can notice a certain dynamic that did not exist in Byzantine art, for example. Some people represented have a certain emotion, in addition to the clear use of a horizon that gives depth to the painting.

One of Giotto’s frescoes in which an artistic evolution is clear is the one below, in which he shows The Kiss of Judas:

The Kiss of Judas, Giotto.

The characters represented have more realistic characteristics, there is a fit in the clothes that fold and adjust to the body, the fabrics are more realistic, and the figures represented have emotions, and are inserted in a dynamic situation, which would be when Judas kissed Jesus to deliver him to the Romans for him to be crucified. There is a man who appears to sound a trumpet, and this has the meaning of an announcement.

This fresco was painted by Giotto in Cappella degli Scrovegni. Another work by the artist is an altarpiece painted in the former Vatican basilica. In it, Giotto represents Jesus on a great throne surrounded by smaller figures around this throne.

Altarpiece, Giotto.

This image also shows the crucifixion of São Pedro, on the right side, and the beheading of Paulo de Tarsus, on the left side. The artist used this golden background to give a monumental and grandiose style to the stories portrayed by him in this painting. We can see the use of perspective and more realistic and elaborate figures, even Paul’s head separated from the body is something that catches the eye.

One of the best masterpieces painted by Giotto is the Virgin of Ognissanti.

Virgin of Ognissanti, Giotto.

This image was painted using tempera and gold. In addition to having large dimensions 325 × 204 cm. The characters represented in this altarpiece have perspective, depth and it is one of the great works of Giotto that shows the break with the planned representations of Byzantine art. The artist perfected himself in the contrasts used in this work, which is visible on the clothes and on the faces.

The altarpiece painted by Giotto is currently in the Uffizi Gallery in the city of Florence in Italy.

Giotto was very admired by Renaissance artists, especially another fresco he made for the Peruzzi Chapel, this painting has the theme The life of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, one of the parts of this fresco that is below, represents the rise of Saint João Evangelista.

St. John the Evangelist, Giotto.

This fresco is well worn by time, but even the slightly faded image that remains shows that Giotto worked with the chiaroscuro, an artistic technique that would be widely used by Renaissance and especially Baroque artists.

One of Giotto’s last works were the frescoes that are found in the Podestà Chapel in the Palacio de Bargello, as well as other frescoes by the artist, his paintings are in a poor state of conservation but even so we can see some details of the paintings made by Giotto, such as the image of Dante Alighieri.

Dante Alighieri.

Dante’s Inferno writing, Dante Alighieri himself wrote about Giotto in a sentence about Giotto in which he says that the artist now obscures the fame of other previous artists and that now Giotto was the great artist in vogue.
Some people consider Giotto to be the precursor artist of the Renaissance, because of his artistic evolution that presented a new aesthetic that took into account the use of perspective and contrasts of colors creating depth in his paintings. The artist also substitutes idealism for more real images, in addition to complete scenarios where the characters interact giving a dynamic characteristic in his works.

Giotto died in Florence in the year 1337, and leaves a great legacy that will lead to a great artistic revolution that will start in Italy with Italian masters like Leonardo Da Vinci. The use of perspective was a huge step forward in art history.

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