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Giotto in Milan – Exhibition at the Palazzo Reale

September 6, 2015

GIOTTO

There are several, smaller noteworthy museum exhibitions taking place now through the end of the year – this is the first posting. From now through January 10, 2106, Milan’s Palazzo Reale is hosting Giotto, L’Italia an exhibition about the great trecento painter Giotto di Bondone who laid the groundwork for the Italian Renaissance.  There are fourteen works on view (mostly panel paintings) reports ANSA:

The 14 works, none of which have ever before been exhibited in Milan, have been placed on large iron altars in semi-darkness: a “poor” context that aims to exalt the beauty of the paintings. Palazzo Reale incorporates the structures of Palazzo di Azzone Visconti, where Giotto in his last years of life painted two mural cycles that have since been lost. In the room on his youth works, there is a fragment of the ‘Maestà della Vergine da Borgo San Lorenzo’ and the ‘Madonna da San Giorgio alla Costa’, which date back to the period of activity between Florence and Assisi. Also exhibited is the nucleus of the ‘Badia Fiorentina’, with the polyptych of the main altar, the panel with God the Father from the Scrovegni chapel and Stefaneschi polyptych, a masterpiece painted for the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica.

Polyptych 1330-35 Tempera on wood, 91 x 340 cm Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna

Polyptych
1330-35
Tempera on wood, 91 x 340 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna

The exhibition Web site, unfortunately, is a bit of a mess, with several significant works misidentified. For example, the Polyptych from Bologna (above) is labeled as the Stefaneschi Polyptych (below), which is in the Vatican.

The Stefaneschi Triptych (verso) c. 1330. Tempera on panel, 220 x 245 cm. Pinacoteca, Vatican

The Stefaneschi Triptych (verso) c. 1330. Tempera on panel, 220 x 245 cm. Pinacoteca, Vatican

And the Baroncelli Polyptych (below, shown below during installation) is labeled as the Bologna Polyptych.

Installation of the Baroncelli Polyptych c. 1334. Tempera on wood, 185 x 323 cm. Baroncelli Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence.

Installation of the Baroncelli Polyptych c. 1334. Tempera on wood, 185 x 323 cm. Baroncelli Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence.

Nevertheless, if you’re in Milan, this exhibition is well worth the time.

As the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) notes of the artist:

Giotto’s explorations and innovations in art during the early fourteenth century developed, a full century later, into the Italian Renaissance. Besides making panel paintings, he executed many fresco cycles, the most famous at the Arena Chapel, Padua, and he also worked as an architect and sculptor.

Whereas his Sienese contemporary Duccio concentrated on line, pattern, and shape arranged on a flat plane, the Florentine Giotto emphasized mass and volume, a classical approach to form. By giving his figures a blocky, corporeal character, the artist introduced great three-dimensional plasticity to painting.

Installation shot from "Giotto, L'Italia"

Installation shot from “Giotto, L’Italia”

The National Gallery (London) says of the artist:

Giotto was the chief liberator of Italian painting from the Byzantine style of the earlyMiddle Ages. He was mainly active in Florence, although he may have been trained in Rome. He also worked in Avignon, Padua and Naples (1328-32).

The part he played in initiating a new phase in Italian painting was recognised byDante his contemporary, and later underlined by Vasari. Giotto’s main surviving fresco cycles are those in the Arena Chapel, Padua [also know as the Scrovegni Chapel, and a few hours east of Milan by Eurostar], which probably date from just before 1305, and those in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels in Santa Croce, Florence, probably before 1328.

His few undisputed panel paintings include the ‘Ognissanti Madonna’ (Florence, Uffizi). Concentration and gravity are the hallmarks of Giotto’s style, and his figures, notable for their expressive character and three-dimensional weightiness, inhabit convincing architectural spaces.

 

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