Three curiosities, or maybe legends, about Giotto you would like to know & to share at your next dinner table!
On the Sides - Examples of Giotto's Frescos from the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi &
the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua
In the center - Maestà di Ognissanti, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Giotto di Bondone is the most important Italian painter from the Middle Age. He revolutionized the art of painting. And, that's why today he is considered the first modern painter while at his time, XIII-XIV centuries, he became the benchmark for all artists for the next couple hundred years.
So much so that in 1452 Benozzo Gozzoli, a Tuscan Renaissance painter, eternalized Giotto in his frescos for the Church Museum of Saint Francis in Montefalco, Umbria.
The three figures are called the Great Franciscans: Laureatus Petrarca, omnium virtutum monarca - Theologus Dantes, nullius dogmatis expers - Pictorum eximius, Iottus fondamentum et lux.
As you can notice, Giotto has been portraited next to the two most relevant Medieval poets who invented the Italian language, Dante & Petrarca. Hence in the Renaissance, he was considered the one who invented the Italian figurative language becoming so a myth.
Like all the best mythological creatures, what made Giotto eternal were legends & stories. Viaggio decided to pick just three fun facts, and here they are:
1. GIOTTO'S SHEEP
The art historian, Giorgio Vasari, reports that Giotto was born of humble origins, and his soon-to-be master, Cimabue, noticed him on the streets by accident. The young artist was painting a rock with such realistic sheep that a very impressed Cimabue asked his father to take him to Florence as an apprentice.
Giotto, a famous Italian brand for crayons, used to have a label about this story.
2. THE PERFECT "O"
Giorgio Vasari also tells that one day Pope Bonifacio VIII, in search of the best Italian artists, sent an emissary to Giotto's studio to get proof of his talent. So, the painter just drew a perfect "O" with one brush stroke and without the help of any instruments!
Then, he gave the paper to the shocked Vatican emissary and left. When the Pope saw the drawing, he decided no other tests were required. Meanwhile, all the other artists had to send their best paintings to compete with Giotto.
3. A FLY PRANK
Another fun fact is the legendary episode of a prank for Cimabue, Giotto's master, made by the student. Still a young apprentice, Giotto was already very talented, and one night he decided to paint a fly on one of his master's canvas just for fun.
The fly was so realistic that Cimabue on the next day tried to swat the painted fly...eventually he realized the mistake but the prank was pulled, already!
All these stories on Giotto's abilities to paint with artistry & to reproduce realty created the myth, the legend, Giotto di Bondone: esteemed painter, cornerstone & light.
Last but not least, let's not forget he was an architect as well, and a great one too. Few know he designed the gorgeous - 84.70 m tall Bell Tower of Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria in Fiore! And, it's now better known simply as Giotto's Campanile.
Giorgio Vasari in his The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors & architects (1550), and Lorenzo Ghiberti in his Commentaries (1452) recount in detail these fun facts.