Giotto Di Bondone was one of the earliest artists to pursue a naturalistic approach to representation based on observation, along with portraying the illusions of real life emotions and landscapes. Born in Florence in 1266, Giotto was a fresco painter who revolutionized painting techniques, breaking away from the rigid formation that had been the foundation of painting. It is said that he was discovered by Cimabue painting a lamb on a rock at his home in the countryside. Giotto’s first works reflected those of his mentor Cimabue stylistically; however he had already begun to exhibit original pictorial characteristics. Through the utilization of naturalistic observation, atmospheric perspective and expressive humanistic methods, he transitioned his painting from the Byzantine flatter style into a natural piece bursting fluently with life from the Renaissance.
The array of frescos at the Scrovengi Chapel in Padua that depict Christ’s ...view middle of the document...
All these methods were beyond the means or devices of earlier artists and he endows upon us new enlightening perspectives on the birth of Christ.
In order to provide the viewer with insight into the scene Giotto utilizes diverse elements and principles of design that influence the mood, tone and symbolic references of the work. The mood of the painting is one of strong realization in which excitement is suppressed. Giotto positions Mary on the bed in a long sad manner with an austere expression, which is symbolic of her gazing into the future of humanity through her son. This utilization of pronounced diagonal lines leads us to the focal point of Mary and baby Jesus, who are surrounded by animals and the Sheppard Joseph. The ox represents the New Testament and the donkey represents the Old Testament, which simultaneously they symbolize the contrast between those who can "see" and those who are "blind" to the coming of Christ. The angels above the manger are also symbolic, acting as a barrier between heaven and Earth. Giotto utilizes foreshortening creating value in the contrast of the background, developing three- dimensionality and giving the angels a sense of depth; while creating an endless looking portrayal of the heavenly space.
By interweaving additional principles of design Giotto inserts visual movement to direct the viewers through the work by straight edges, colors and intertwined triangular shapes developed by character placement and the gazes between individuals. For instance Mary’s stare is directed at the Child who directs us toward the wise men that appear to be admiring the angels. This along with his application of colors and contrasting elements create the unity by carrying the nature of humanity throughout he establishes a scene that is literally, figuratively and thematically interconnected.
This fresco beautifully exemplifies Giotto’s break of traditional Byzantine techniques. Through his artwork he captures authenticity in the human face and body, applying it to biblical events such as the nativity, the last dinner and the resurrection. He played an essential role in the transition toward naturalism, making the reader question humanity and their lives through each particular aspect of his works such as in The Nativity.