1267–1337 • EARLY RENAISSANCE
200 × 185 CM (78¾ × 73 IN)
CAPELLA SCROVEGNI (ARENA CHAPEL), PADUA, ITALY
Giotto lived and worked in Florence during a period when religious subjects and styles had been laid down by centuries of tradition. As the first artist to depict human emotion, his influence set Western art on a path to the Renaissance. Other artists at this time copied their compositions and figures from earlier paintings, but Giotto moved away from the static, two-dimensional images of Byzantine and Gothic art.
One of Giotto’s innovations was the placing of characters in natural-looking locations that depicted the real world; he also replaced traditional gold backgrounds with blue skies. Another revolution was the introduction of secular life into religious themes. He also emphasized physical characteristics in his figures, portraying the shape and weight of bodies under heavy clothing using light and shadow.
Although, like other contemporary artists, he lacked specific knowledge of anatomy and perspective, his figures looked substantial and worldly, rather than decorative and symbolic. More than those of any other artist of his time, Giotto’s figures seemed alive, physically and emotionally, and because his methods told biblical stories in this new, humanist way, his works became a source of education, enlightenment and entertainment.