Giotto and His Publics: Three Paradigms of Patronage by Julian Gardner

By Julian Gardner

This probing research of 3 works by means of Giotto and the consumers who commissioned them is going a ways past the clichés of Giotto because the founding determine of Western portray. It strains the interactions among Franciscan friars and strong bankers, illuminating the complicated interaction among mercantile wealth and the iconography of poverty.

Political strife and non secular faction lacerated fourteenth-century Italy. Giotto’s commissions are top understood opposed to the history of this social turmoil. They mirrored the calls for of his buyers, the necessities of the Franciscan Order, and the restlessly artistic genius of the painter. Julian Gardner examines this crucial interval of Giotto’s path-breaking occupation via works initially created for Franciscan church buildings: Stigmatization of Saint Francis from San Francesco at Pisa, now within the Louvre, the Bardi Chapel cycle of the Life of St. Francis in Santa Croce at Florence, and the frescoes of the crossing vault above the tomb of Saint Francis within the decrease Church of San Francesco at Assisi.

those work of art have been achieved in the course of a twenty-year interval whilst inner tensions divided the friars themselves and while the Order used to be faced by means of a thorough swap of papal coverage towards its defining vow of poverty. The Order had collected nice wealth and equipped ostentatious church buildings, alienating many Franciscans within the strategy and incurring the hostility of alternative Orders. Many components in Giotto’s frescoes, together with references to St. Peter, Florentine politics, and church structure, have been incorporated to meet buyers, redefine the determine of Francis, and have a good time the dominant team in the Franciscan brotherhood.

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At most the young painter may have had a minor participatory role. 10 Both these works, neither of which is in the strictest sense documented, will here too be accepted as the touchstone of authenticity. Chapel and altarpiece are both earlyish commissions, while two of the three episodes with which I shall deal—the Bardi 21 Giotto and His Publics Chapel cycle in Santa Croce, and the Vele or crossing-­vault frescoes in the Lower Church of San Francesco at Assisi— are from substantially later in the painter’s career.

125 As we shall see, the relationship between the iconography of the Stigmatization scenes at Assisi and Pisa is later radically transformed for the Bardi Chapel. Clearly im­por­tant iconographic innovations point once again to the Franciscan patrons, but they were equally in contact with an extraordinarily perceptive painter. They, and their Cinquina financiers, were responsible for the Stigmatization altarpiece, but Giotto was the painter who transformed verbal instruction and theological conviction into a pathbreaking image.

What reasons might be posited for the choice of these four episodes? First, the institutional thrust of Giotto’s painting should be remarked. Two scenes out of four exemplify papal encouragement and approval of the Franciscan Order. 50 By circa 1300 a new modus vivendi had been achieved, and the papacy, even more vigorously than had been the case elsewhere in central Italy, had intervened directly in the choice of arch­bishop. 51 It is well known that the Dream of Innocent III, and the pope’s subsequent verbal approval, was a crucial moment, enabling the Franciscan Order to develop its own rule of life rather than being compelled, by a decision of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, to adopt the rule of an existing religious order—as indeed the Dominicans were forced to do.

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