Giotto di Bondone, "Virgin and Child Enthroned," (also called the "Ognissanti Altar,") c 1310. Tempera and gold on wood, 10'8"x6'8" Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Considered Late Gothic or Early Renaissance in Style
Giotto’s version of the "Virgin and Child Enthroned" is an excellent example of how rapidly late Gothic art evolved into the Renaissance style. Giotto was the student of Cimabue and built on Cimabue’s initial plan or schema of how to paint the theme of “Throne of Wisdom.” Giotto builds on the arrangement and the composition that was established in the late Gothic era but changes it radically by including light and shadow, the illusion of space, humanistic gesture, and more accurate anatomy. Compare Giotto’s version against Cimabue’s version.
Form: Giotto's painting of the Virgin child shows some marked formal differences. Giotto is a kind of special effects master. His paintings are more three dimensional. He also uses more contrasts of light and shadow. This is called chiaroscuro. He also uses overlapping of the figures to create a sense of space. Compare to Duccio or Cimabue's paintings in which the figures that accompany Mary seem to be standing on bleachers as if for a class photo. Giotto also uses more lifelike gestures. The figures interact and tend to regard one another. Notice the tilted heads in adoration of the Virgin. The figure of Mary is more lifelike and even dresses more in the Italian style. Notice that her hair is slightly uncovered and her clothing reveals the anatomy beneath almost like the wet drapery style of the ancient Greeks. The throne is also more convincingly rendered it looks like an actual architectural structure.
Iconography: In an overt description of the iconography Giotto's rendition of this then seems identical to Cimabue's but on closer inspection, the naturalism and illusionism of the work is symbolic of some of the fundamental changes that were occurring during the late Gothic to Renaissance periods.
The naturalism relates to the study and pursuit of humanism. The ideas of Christian and Catholic though go through a radical change with the canonization of St. Francis. The idea that one should and could emulate the life and behavior of Christ meant that art needed to relate more to the individual and strike a chord of compassion. The heightened realism of such images was designed to create a sense of sympathy or empathy with the religious characters they portrayed.
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