Giotto di Bondone, most commonly known as Giotto was an Italian painter in the Gothic/ pro-Renaissance period and he was also an architect during the late middle ages. Giotto´s life is very uncertian and nysterious not much details are known about his life such as, his date of birth, his birth place, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works,whether or not he actually painted the famous frescos in the upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, and we have no knowelefge of his burial place.
The traditional story was that Giotto was born in a farmhouse at Colle di Romagnano or Romignano. Since 1850 ther has been a plaque claiming the honor of his birth place, a claim that has been comercially publisized. However, recent research has presented documented evidence that he was actually born in Florence. He was the son of a blacksmith. The claims are that Giotto was a shepard boy who was loved by all who knew him. He was said to be merry and joyful. Very intelligent and a talented artist. The great Florentine painter Cimbue discovered Giotto drawing of his sheep on a rock. They were so lifelike that Cimbue approached Giotto and asked if he could take him on as an apprentice. Cimbue was one of two highly regareded painters at the time. The other was Duccio, who worked mainly in Siena. There are many of such stories about Giotto´ś skill as a young artist.
There is also a beautiful story stating that when Pope Benedict XI sent a messenger to Giotto asking him to send him a drawing demonstrating his skill, Giotto drew a red circle so perfect that it seemed as though it had been drawn using a pair of compasses. The messenger then took this drawing to the Pope. Once given to the Pope and the messenger related the story of how Giotto made the circle without moving his arm and without the aid of compasses. Of course the Pope and his courtiers where amazed at how Giotto´s skill greatly surpassed all of his contemporaries.
Around 1290 Giotto got married to Ricevuta di Lapo del Pela. Their marriage was said to be a sound one, they had four daughters and four sons. Giotto worked in Rome Italy from 1297 -1300. By 1301 Giotto owned a house in Florence, and when he was not traveling he would return home to live in comfort with his family. By the early 1300´s Giotto had multiple commissions in Florence. The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran houses a small portion of the fresco cycle, painted for the Jubilee of 1300 called by Boniface Vill. In this period Giotto also painted the badia Polyptych, now in the Uffizi in Florence.
It has been said that Cimabue went to Assisi to paint several large frescoes at the new Basilicia of Saint Francis of Assisi and that Giotto went with him, The attribution of the fresco cycle of Life of St. Francis in the upper church has been one of the most disputed in art history. It is theorized that the fresco´s attributed to the Master of Isaac might have been executed by Giotto. There is just so little evidence to say for certain. Napoleon´s troops who stabled horses in the Upper Church of Basilicia and the documents of the Franciscan Friars that related to the artists commissions were destroyed.
As Giotto´s fame spread, he was called to work in Padue and also in Rimini. Here the only thing remains is a crucifix painted before 1309 and conserved in the church of Saint Francis. Years later it is said that Giotto was called by King Robert of Anjuo to Naples where he remained with a group of pupils until 1333. In 1332 King Robert named Giotto ¨ First court painter.¨ He had a yearly pension. Also it is said that in this time Giotto composed a series of scenes based on the book of revelations that were also influenced from ideas from Dante.
After Naples, Giotto traveled to Bologna where he painted a polyptych for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. In 1334, Giotto was appointed chief architect to Florence Cathedral. He designed the bell tower known as Giotto´s Campanile. In his final years Giotto became friends with Boccaccio and Sacchetti, who featured Giotto in their stories. It is said that Giotto died in 1337.
Giotto was mysterious but one fact that we can agree on is that he had an innovative painting style with expressive, emotive faces. Giotto was renowned for his naturalistic and realistic works in tempera and fresco. It is also accurate to say that Giotto´s greatest innovation was to draw his figures from real observation. True or myth we have to admire the stories of a young shepherd boy who began by drawing pictures on the ground or on stones and was discovered by Cimabue. He then became known even now as one of the most important artists in the development of western art. Giotto was also known for the way he explored the possibilities of perspective and space. This brought a new sense of realism to his religious parables. It is said that Giotto painted 136 artworks in his lifetime. It is unfortunate that proof of his works no longer exists however for me I believe Giotto was fierce to come from such humble beginnings and become the artist he grew to be. He was brave and created his own style in which he painted from natural talent. Even Dante wrote about Giotto. In fact Giotto owes his mythic status to his contemporary and friend Dante. Seven centuries later, it is not hard to see why Giotto had the cry.