In the field of Christian art, during the later Middle Ages, the Franciscan movement exercised considerable influence, especially in Italy. Several great painters of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, especially Cimabue and Giotto, who, though they were not friars, were spiritual sons of Francis in the wider sense, and the plastic masterpieces of the latter, as well as the architectural conceptions of both himself and his school, show the influence of Franciscan ideals. The Italian Gothic style, whose earliest important monument is the great convent church at Assise (built 1228–53), was cultivated as a rule principally by members of the order or men under their influence. Giotto has become the symbol of a profound renewal in the history of Western figurative arts, and of the first radical renewal since ancient Greece. "He converted the art of painting from Greek to Latin and brought in the modern era" - this is Cennino Cennini's synthesis fifty years after Giotto's death, underscoring the revolutionary character of Giotto's painting.
Born in 1267, he must have been active before the last decade of thirteenth century.
Giotto worked for the Bardi's and the Peruzzi's, the Florentine families who owned the most important European banks of the thirteenth century. He worked for the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, which was the most important church of Christianity at the time; he worked for the Pope, for the richest and most influential citizen of Padova (Scrovegni), for the chapel and main altar of the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome, for the king of Napoli and for Azzone Visconti, the master of Milano. At a time when the exceptional Italian economic expansion turned every Italian city in a cultural center with specific characteristics and a potential artistic "school", Giotto placed himself in a super-regional position, becoming a universal reference point.
If we look at the contents of his artistic revolution, we have to agree that the first manifestations are present in the decoration of the Assisi Upper Basilica. These frescos reveal the mind and, in part, the hand of the genius who created the frescos of Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
It is very probable that Giotto has worked in Assisi about ten years earlier than in Padua, that is to say, around 1290 or a little later.
The concept of space formulated for the first time in Assisi was already known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but had been lost in Medieval times. This is not just a new way of painting. The idea of an illusionary reconstruction of a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface also implies that the reality perceived through one's senses acquires a new artistic meaning.
The decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (between 1303-1305) has been universally recognized as the most significant and most paradigmatic creation of Giotto and one of the capital events in the history of the European painting.
The decoration of the Assisi Lower Basilica (before 1309?), the Peruzzi Chapel, the Bardi Chapel (after 1317) also illustrate Giotto's radical innovations.
Dividing his time between his job as chief architect of the Duomo of Florence (the design of the belltower belongs to Giotto) and the many prestigious commissions (between 1329-1333 he works in Naples for the king Robert of Anjou; in 1335 he works in Milano for Azzone Visconti), the great artist was also in firm control of his "school", which produced a number of works of great artistic value and unique chromatic splendor, such as the large polyptichs of Bologna and the Barroncelli Chapel in Basilica Santa Croce (Florence), both signed by Giotto.
Assisi, Upper Basilica - Basilica Superiore
Stories of San Francis - Storie di San Francesco I
Stories of San Francis - Storie di San Francesco II
Assisi, Lower Basilica - Basilica Inferiore
Padova, The Scrovegni Chapel - La Cappella degli Scrovegni
Stories of St. Joachim - Storie di San Giacchino
Stories of Virgin Mary - Storie della Madonna
Stories of Christ - Storie di Cristo I
Stories of Christ - Storie di Cristo II
Allegories of Virtues and Vices - Allegorie delle Virtù e dei Vizi
Basilica di Santa Croce
Panels with Stories of Christ - Tavole con Storie di Cristo
Polyptich Panels - Panelli di Polittico
Panels with Madonna - Panelli con Madonna
The Stefaneschi Polyptich - Il Polittico Stefaneschi
The Badia Polyptich - Il Polittico di Badia
The Polyptich of Bologna - Il Polittico di Bologna
The Baroncelli Polyptich - Il Polittico Baroncelli
The Crucifixes - I Crocifissi