According to Hartt and Wilkins (2010), the name Giotto di Bondone became synonymous to the Early Renaissance period. Most of the details of Giotto’s birth and death is speculated by experts due to the lack of public records and statements about the artist. In some recounts, the Italian artist is said to be from Colle di Romagnano in the northern region of Florence. Records in 1267 noted that his father is called “Bondone”, a man with high standing in Florence. While records have no clear idea as to where Giotto was born, a hamlet in the northern region of Florence is considered the birthplace due to the plaque placed by locals. It is also due to the lack of records that Giotto’s name is also questioned by experts and historians. They believe that Giotto might have been the nickname of the artist. Even the age of Giotto in the time of his death is speculated because people assumed his age was seventy due to a poem written by Antonio Pucci. Even Giorgio Vasari, a historian of Italian Artists, used only hearsay with regards to Giotto’s birth and death.
In Vasari’s recount stated in his book “Lives of Artist”, the young Giotto was both intelligent and carefree. His artworks were already top-notch despite his usual work as a shepherd boy. One day, Cimabue was traversing the fields the young Giotto herded his sheep and noticed the boy’s sketches. Cimabue was amazed of the realistic features on the sketches that he went to Bondone to ask if he can turn the boy as his apprentice. In some accounts, Bondone was not approached by Cimabue and only had Giotto sent to Cimabue’s workshop when they moved to Florence. In Vasari’s recollection, the young Giotto would often complete or add subjects to many of Cimabue’s unfinished works. Cimabue would see these realistic additions by his apprentice and would often remove it from his pieces. Nonetheless, the Pope found out about the young boy’s talent and even sent a messenger to check the boy’s talent. Upon learning the Pope’s interest in him, Giotto only drew a circle in front of the messenger and told him to send it to the Pope. The young aspiring artist did not use any compass in his circle, proven by the messenger. Throughout his tenure as the apprentice of Cimabue, Giotto would often travel with the painter to various locations. In 1280, Giotto assisted Cimabue in his commissions in Rome. His first known but speculated commission as Cimabue’s apprentice is the Life of Saint Francis fresco in the then newly built Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. However, experts have cited that Giotto’s involvement in the fresco can no longer be proven as the Franciscans lost the documents of artistic commissions when Napoleon raided the Basilica.
Vasari also cited that Giotto’s considerable first commission is the frescos of the Annunciation and the Crucifix for the Dominicans at Santa Maria Novella. The Crucifix is said to have been done in 1290 with a height of 5 metres. Many historians and art experts cite that the Crucifix is the first artwork to venture off the Byzantine art form. Giotto applied natural measurements for his subject and made the details more realistic than the Byzantine images. Giotto is also credited for his creation of the Madonna and Child fresco, which is now located in Florence’s Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte. The Louvre also houses several of Giotto’s works, namely the Stigmata of St. Francis. The Italian artist also married at a young age since he married Ricevuta di Lapo del Peta in 1287. Giotto is said to be 20 years old by the time he married Ricevuta . In addition to the known first paintings of Giotto, according to Rudd (2009), he is also cited to have done three paintings – the Madonna and Saints from the Santa Maria degli Angeli in Bologna, Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, and the Coronation of the Virgin from the Batoncelli Chapel’s Santa Croce Church. In 1305, Giotto created his Madonna, especially the Ognissanti Madonna, panels for the Florentine Church of Ognissanti, which is now located in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. A year later, Giotto created his masterpiece; the 22 frescoes entitled Life of Christ for the Scrovengi Chapel in Padua. It is said that Dante Alighieri, who was then exiled in 1806 to Padua, might have seen the frescoes . Another famous piece of Giotto di Bondone, which is noted in Chilvers (2004)’s analysis, is the external mosaic for the Old St Peter’s Basilica in Rome entitled Christ Walking on the Waters and the Navicella. The mosaics were saved when the Old St. Peter’s been demolished and is now displayed in the portico of the current Basilica. He only did small paintings for the King of Naples and became city architect in Florence in 1334. His notable work as the architect of Florence is the Giotto Tower or the Campanile of the cathedral . Many experts believed that Giotto’s works were symbolizes the stories of each religious figure he portrays in his arwork. In the explanation given by Kleiner (2011), Giotto gave his subjects proportional shape, additional backdrop and expression. His characters presented emotions of love, fear, rage, and anguish; which also included the tensions in their bodies. Giotto also concentrated on depicting settings of religious figures, which have not been portrayed in any other work. This is seen in his Arena Chapel artwork in Padua. Dante Alighieri even acknowledged Giotto in his work “The Divine Comedy”. Giotto di Bondone died in January 1337, buried in Santa Maria del Fiore. However, the location is contested by experts as there is no apparent record of death and burial of the Italian maestro .
Part 2: Recreating the Crucifixion of Rimini by Giotto di Bondone
After understanding and assessing the life of Giotto di Bondone, realizations came into the mind as to Giotto’s works and how I view him today. Giotto’s works both presented modernity and deviance for the traditional art styles present in the early years of the Renaissance. The seemingly avant-garde style and usage of dramatics, temper, and passion enabled Giotto to visualize his subjects in such accurate detail. However, I found myself confused over Giotto’s preference in showcasing expressions of guilt, fear, rage, and anguish in his works. While I admit this gave his masterpiece’s new life to his devotion, the emotions presented the seven sins that any Catholic devout should not have drawn for a religious art work. While his biography did not specifically stress his struggle in life, it made me question the possibly that Giotto did have some struggles within himself as an artist and as a person. I could not tell because even Giotto’s biographies in the books I have viewed all have speculations over the details of his life.
In honor of the artist who had exhibited both finesse and avant-garde art form in his tenure as a painter of the Early Renaissance, I decided to recreate the Crucifixion of Rimini in a 3d Lasered Crystal. I chose the Crucifixion of Rimini because it represents good and evil. The good is represented by Jesus Christ, who gave His life for the sins and evils of the world. The evil represented the cross; representing the sins Jesus Christ had to bear in His back throughout His journey from Jerusalem to Golgotha. In entirety, the Crucifixion is the constant reminder of what the Son of God did for us. It is also the representation that while man is not perfect and capable of sin, the cross is a medium or a moral compass to lead us away from temptation and choose what is right. I decided to forgo the recreation process of 2D and select 3D for the Crucifixion as I believe 3D would fit Giotto’s preference to make his artwork different from his predecessors. I also believe that Giotto himself would have loved to create his works in 3D if he still lives today. My choice was also influenced by a crystal piece with the Last Supper as its 3D image. I felt myself wonder in awe as I felt the artwork gain new life, making me remember Giotto’s works. I also remembered that Giotto’s artwork is said to enable readers to see angels and his subjects reading out to the viewer.
Recreating the Crucifixion to 3D crystal is not an easy feat which is why I first began researching on how it can be done. I discovered the processes used to create the crystals and software needed for the laser task. The software presents the base in three dimensional formats, enabling the user to select the thickness of the crystal and the etching, and how to program the image to be etched to the crystal. Once the image is programmed to the software, the software then guides the high quality green laser to etch the image into the optically solid crystal. After a few minutes, the image is located inside the solid crystal and can be seen in 3D as programmed in the software. With the end product at hand, I thought Giotto would find himself in awe if he had the chance to create crystals such as this for his art. He would wonder “How could something so beautiful be created through a simple light guided by computer software?” The image itself also makes any viewer stop and think. Some of the ideas that crossed my mind upon gazing the end product of my work is the fact the Crucifix, and Jesus Christ showcases how much we humans have advanced, and how God now sees how much we have indeed changed. While I could speculate God’s reaction over the creation of His children despite the challenges He throws upon us, one cannot know for certain until that time comes. I plan to keep the crystal with the Crucifixion of Rimini because it has a significant meaning to me and probably, to the people who would see it. The entire process gave me the opportunity to learn about myself and the life of the artist I have selected to understand, namely Giotto di Bondone.
Chilvers, Ian. The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Hartt, Frederick and David Wilkins. History of Italian Renaissance Art. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.
Kleiner, Fred. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Global History, Enhanced. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. Print.
Ruud, Jay. Critical Companion to Dante. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.