Giotto and Fresco Painting
In France (and also England), the walls of the cathedrals were
dissolved so that the space could be flooded with light colored by
massive stained glass windows.
In Italy the walls remained—they were an essential part of the
In France the stories of the Bible and the complex theological
programs and arguments presented through the juxtaposition of
seemingly unrelated Old and New Testament scenes or figures (typological
interrelationships) were presented--
through the sculptural programs of the portals
the west (main) entry, and the north and south porches
(which opened onto the transept),
through stained glass windows, and
In Italy this work was accomplished by the frescoes that covered the
nave and chapel walls of the church (or cathedral).
In dry fresco, the painting was done on dry plaster with pigments
having a glue or casein base. This method of painting (a secco) is
In true fresco (buon fresco) the binder is provided by the lime of the
plaster. In drying this forms a calcium carbonate that incorporates
that incorporates the pure pigments, which are simply ground and
diluted only with water.
It was customary to prepare a cartoon or drawing of the same size of
the fresco to be executed in order to facilitate the organization and
implementation of the work. This design was transferred to the wall by
making small holes in the drawing following the lines of the design.
This cartoon was then held up against the intonaco (coat of wet
plaster) and colored dust (sinopia) was as applied through the
perforations to transfer the full design to the wall to be frescoed.
A large fresco therefore was made up of many small sections (giornate),
each corresponding to the amount of painting that the artist could
complete before the plaster hardened. The sections were planned in
such a way as to make the joinings as inconspicuous as possible.
Fresco painting does not permit as much blending of colors as does oil
painting. However, it provides clear luminous colors, and its
endurance makes it ideal for majestic and decorative murals. However,
since the technique is appropriate particularly for dry climates it
has been used only rarely in Northern Europe.
There has been little change in the fresco techniques.
hroughout the Gothic period, there was in Italy a strong and
persistent tradition of large-scale mural painting.
In Renaissance Italy, fresco techniques were distinguished between
buon fresco (good fresco) and fresco secco (dry fresco).
Giotto di Bondone
commissioned by Enrico Scrovegni to expiate the sins of his father
who was a notorious usurer (he changed interest for the money he
loaned to people)
a small building but it is entirely covered with painting
the frescoes depict
the Life of the Virgin
the Life of Christ
the Last Judgment
a series of Virtues and Vices (painted in grisaille)
the figures communicate with each other and seem to have a strong
psychological rapport; in other words, the viewer can imagine
easily the emotion that pass between interacting figures
mastery of creating space in the painting; the ability to create
the illusion of space; the artists attempts illusionistic realism
his figures have bulk and weight
painted buildings have Gothic details
How can you think about drapery?
In traditional Roman influenced damp-fold style of drapery, garments
tend to cling rather than hang.
In a more naturalistic representation, the drapery is articulated by
areas of light and dark not by lines.
Ask yourself, does the artist use the body as a framework around which
to hang drapery or does the artist mold the drapery to the body? (Does
he use the drapery to reveal and model the form underneath it?)
increased naturalism made the biblical scenes more immediate: note
the outdoor settings—rocks, trees, blue sky
the light in all the scenes seems to come from the same source;
the light is identical in each fresco even though the frescos may
represent different times of the day or different times of the
year; this decision helps to unify the content of the frescoes
Giotto uses foreshortening for the first time in the history of
the scale of objects and humans in the scenes is not accurate
he Arena Chapel at Padua
for the Scrovegni family