Giotto: The Arena Chapel Frescoes

Giotto: The Arena Chapel Frescoes

Giotto: The Arena Chapel Frescoes

Giotto: The Arena Chapel Frescoes

Excerpt

Although the frescoes by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua are among the most celebrated works in the history of art, they are often difficult for the beginning student to appreciate visually and intellectually. This book is intended to serve two main functions. On the one hand, it is a general introduction to the subject, particularly through the essay by the editor. On the other, it is intended to provide the materials for a study in depth through the presentation of the early documents pertaining to the Arena Chapel and through the critical essays, which explore the frescoes from various stylistic and iconographic points of view.

The translation here of the Italian and Latin documents offers the student a body of what has been relatively inaccessible information. Documents on the Arena Chapel are few in number and refer only obliquely to the decoration of the interior. If by some chance there had been preserved a dated contract between Giotto and his patron, Enrico Scrovegni, setting forth the terms of the project, we might pay less attention to those other documents and early sources that have been handed down. As it is, we must carefully examine what little evidence there is in order to judge when and under what circumstances Giotto painted his frescoes. Scant as the material is, it helps to fill out a picture of what happened so long ago in Padua. We can read of the purchase of the land of the Paduan Arena in 1300 by Enrico Scrovegni, the Bishop's permission to build the Chapel in 1302, the dedication of the Chapel in 1303 as reported in the inscription (now lost) on Enrico's tomb, the papal bull of 1304 granting indulgences to visitors to the Chapel, the complaint in 1305 by the neighboring monks regarding the excessive luxuriousness of the new Chapel, and the decision of the Venetian High Council in March 1305 to lend wall hangings for the consecration of the Arena Chapel.

Within a very few years we hear of the completed frescoes. Be-

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