Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337): Decameron VI.5

Throughout the centuries, Giotto di Bondone has been recognized as one of the most important innovators of European painting, and as the first of the great Italian masters. His style broke with convention in many ways. In contrast to the splendid but impersonal art of Byzantium that had held sway for centuries, Giotto's was spare, dramatic, and focused on human emotion. Giotto's new style laid the foundation upon which the future progress of Renaissance art was based.

Born a few miles north of Florence, probably to a family of small means, Giotto studied under Cimabue, a painter whose style also surpassed that of his peers at the time. Since there is little documented evidence concerning Giotto's life and production, it is difficult to positively identify works attributable to him or to attempt dating with any certainty. It is conjectured, though the issue is still hotly debated, that the frescos of the upper church of St. Francis of Assisi were done at least partly by Giotto's hand sometime before 1300. Around the turn of the century, when Giotto was known to be in Rome, he executed a mosaic over the entrance to St. Peter's (the navicella), but travelled on to Padua at some point between 1305 and 1309, where he worked on the fresco cycle of the Arena (or Scrovegni) Chapel. There is evidence that after this point, around 1311 to 1314, Giotto moved to Florence; four chapels within the Church of Santa Croce contained frescoes apparently created by his hand. These frescoes, unfortunately, have all been severely damaged or completely lost. From 1330-1333, as a guest at the royal court of Naples, Giotto completed numerous projects which have not been preserved. Upon his return to Florence in 1333, Giotto was appointed surveyor of the Duomo and chief architect of Florence, a position that reflected the great esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens. Giotto di Bondonedied in 1337.

Giotto, referred to as the "miglior dipintore del mondo" is the protagonist of the fifth tale of Day Six.

(R.P./N.S.) Cole, Bruce. Giotto and Florentine Painting, 1280-1375. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.