Sunday, April 5, 2009

Christ Entering Jerusalem by Giotto

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 – January 8, 1337, near Florence, Italy), known as Giotto, is considered the most revolutionary artist of his time. His work is like a bridge between the Gothic and Byzantine art of the Middle Ages and the art of the Renaissance. The later 16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari says of him "...He made a decisive break with the ...Byzantine style, and brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years."
Giotto's masterwork is paintings in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, also referred to as the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance.

Christ Entering Jerusalem was painted between 1305-1306. It is one of the murals in the Arena Chapel. Giotto tried to simplify his compositions, no extra elements, just the essentials. He balances the building on the right with the boy climbing the tree. Christ links the two sides.Whereas Byzantine and Gothic art tended to be flat, Giotto gives us a more three-dimensional painting.
Below is a painting by Duccio of the same subject. Duccio was a contempoary of Giotto, a little younger. There are more details, more figures in his painting. The figures are more elongated, less real. Now a modern viewer looking at the Giotto painting may think, "that doesn't look natural to me." But you need to look at it with 14th century eyes.
Another difference is the perspective. Giotto places his figures in the foreground, pulling us into the scene. Duccio's view is from above. His figures seem to be almost floating.

Giotto was also an accomplished architect, as many of the Renaissance artists were.
The murals of the Arena Chapel were commissioned by Enrico degli Scrovegni. For more information (and photographs) go to:

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