Giotto

c.1266-1337. Italian painter. A Florentine, he replaced the Byzantine cool distance of a majestic Christ with a Lord solemnly moving among men who experienced His presence. The frescoes in Padua confront an observer at real-life eye level. The saints wear golden halos but are crying, gesturing, intensely responsive; and their crowded compositional groupings bespeak daily life. The soft watercolor tones and limited range of color areas natural to fresco murals reinforce the quiet, tender simplicity of Giotto's interacting figures. Everyone about Christ assumes a kind of “sacred” (separated from the ordinary) solidity that is very “spiritually” real. Giotto antedates Boccaccio's secularizing spirit and critical developments like devotio moderna; he painted while the Divine Comedy was being written. But unlike Dante with his hell, purgatory, and heaven locations, Giotto presented Christ on firm earth. When painter Giotto was made head of the Florence Cathedral school in 1334, the appointment signaled the rising, formative influence of painting in a period (Gothic) previously dominated by stained-glass architecture and stone sculpture.