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Showing posts with label Giotto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Giotto. Show all posts

Friday, 7 May 2010

Painting of the Month (5) May 2010: St Francis by Giotto di Bondone

By Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337)
Giotto has a special place in the pantheon of the history of painting. Although he displayed no real knowledge of perspective like, say, Ucello (born 1397), or a knowledge of human anatomy such as that displayed by Michaelangelo (born 1475) he is generally credited with being the first to breakaway from the dominant style of Byzantine art which displayed very little realism and appeared very flat with hardly any shading.
So, although his work appears to be very 'ancient' to our eyes, it should be viewed in the context of his being sometimes known as 'the first painter'. This was a move in the direction of realism.
Incidentally you might note the lack of blue pigment in this painting.
All the ultramarine used in Europe was imported from the mines at Badakshan, in what is now Afghanistan. Extracted from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, it was an extremely lightfast, bright deep blue. The extraction process was complicated and labour-intensive, which added to its cost (more than gold at the time). The pigment was imported via Venice, so it was used by a lot of Italian artists, who had relatively easy access to it.
Giotto probably didn't even have the option of using it.
In later rennaisance religious art you can see that the robes of the virgin were depicted in 'heavenly' blue, which would have been read as a sign of both opulence and reverence.