Giotto di Bondone

t is sometimes difficult to determine the exact date one historical period ends and another starts unless there is a determinable event that is of such a magnitude all dispute is considered useless. The time between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance there was no such event. There was only a transition over time. The Italian painter Giotto di Bondone is one such artist that gets claimed by both ages. To some he is the greatest of medieval painters to others he is the father and innovator of the renaissance painters.


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The Adoration of the Magi

Artist: Giotto di Bondone (Italian, Florentine, 1266/76–1337)
Date: possibly ca. 1320
Medium: Tempera on wood, gold ground
Dimensions: 17 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (45.1 x 43.8 cm)
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1911
Accession Number: 11.126.1



Giotto usually painted biblical scenes and in fact some believe that he gave live to them. Being adept at adding human emotion and response to the familiar scenes gave them an added layer of depth and intrigue that had eluded previous artists. Until this point biblical art served as a mere reminder of the sacred stories and were stiff and unapproachable by humanity.  Giotto’s skill in taking and giving depth to the subject matter was one of the reasons he is considered the father of the Renaissance painters to follow.

Currently at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, Italy there is “Giotto, I’Italia” an exhibition of  Giotto’s work. No matter what time frame Giotto gets lumped into the Italians believe Giotto is a cultural hero and a source of pride.  The exhibit brings forth “an important category of medieval art: the polyptych, a painting on wood consisting of four or more panels, occasionally double-sided, and often with hinged, foldable sections.” They were often only displayed on holy days and for certain feasts.  Though Giotto’s own works were not limited to polyptychs there were quite versatile as the scenes could be added above, below or adjacent to the original scenes.


The Nativity

Artist: Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish, Tournai ca. 1399–1464 Brussels)
Date: mid-15th century
Geography: Made in Brussels, Belgium
Culture: South Netherlandish
Medium: Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions: Overall (as displayed): 59 3/4 x 108 x 19 1/2 in. (151.8 x 274.3 x 49.5 cm)
Classification: Paintings-Panels
Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1949
Accession Number: 49.109


The work of Giotto inspired some of the most famous Renaissance painters such as Di Vinci and Michelangelo. No matter what era he gets put into I believe Giotto is at the forefront of human artistic expression during that time.

As a Minnesotan I am typically far removed from the Renaissance directly but indirectly the effects of this art has made a lasting impact throughout the ages. Minnesota has a large community of artists and many of them can trace inspiration back to some Renaissance artists as a basis of understanding of art.


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