|St Francis, detail|
Friday, 3 June 2016
Cimabue: Fresco in the Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi c.1278
The picture depicts the Madonna and Child with four Angels and St Francis
Sometimes in art, as in life in general, greatness is soon eclipsed by a still superior greatness. Cimabue (1240 - 1302) was the last great Byzantine painter but his pupil Giotto is generally regarded as the first great painter of the Italian Renaissance. Today the name of Cenni di Pepi, known as Cimabue (pronounced as Cheema-boo-ay) is barely known while the genius of Giotto is rightly recognised. The characteristics of Byzantine painting were; an almost total concern with religious expression, mainly icons; flatness and lack of perspective; often a severe almost abstract other-worldly style was used and background and highlights were of gold which had the ability to make a solitary figure appear to be floating somewhere between the wall and the viewer. The intention was to depict images of the divine that were raised above the mundane. Despite, or possibly because of these restrictions, the art managed to convey great beauty.
It can be seen from the detail, left, that Cimabue was beginning to get some individual expression into the faces he painted. Before his time there was no individuality shown in portraits. It's important to realise that new styles in art don't just cut in with the suddenness of a banjo chord; Cimabue was a genuine link between Byzantine and Renaissance art. Little is known about his life although a few details are given in Vasari's Lives of the Painters (1550).
I'm listening to a cast recording of the 'American Tribal Love-Rock Musical' Hair. The current track is 'What a Piece of Work is Man', lyrics by W.Shakespeare. Listen here.