Giotto Frescoes

Giotto Frescoes

Giotto Frescoes

Giotto Frescoes

Excerpt

"High on the rocky path a man appeared, sturdy and not very tall, planting his feet firmly and with care, and leading behind him an ass. First its well-fed, well-groomed head appeared, then the lovely burden it bore. A gentle, sweet- faced woman sat on the well-padded saddle. In the blue cloak she wore she carried an infant which she pressed to her breast with a look of ineffable tenderness."

This beautiful, almost Homeric evocation of Joseph and Mary on their wanderings is not an early description of a "Flight into Egypt" by Giotto. It is based on a real incident and is the description of two people actually coming into sight over the crest of a mountain. The scene can be read at the beginning of "Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre" .

Goethe, who conjures up this apparently real "Flight into Egypt" , at once plunges into a delighted comparison between the living picture, encountered in the mountain wilds, and a painted original in a deserted monastery close by. That monastery was the home of "St. Joseph the Second" , the title he gives to a later chapter. The living copy was, like his painted model, a carpenter, and the name of the young woman riding over the mountain on an ass was actually Maria. The incidents which follow in the book reproduce the Bible story down to the smallest details. The next chapters are entitled: "The Visitation" , "The Stalk of the Lily" . They are compared detail by detail with the frescoes in the tumbledown refectory. The art which Goethe was contemplating had been translated direct into a living reality. Apart from certain differences, those frescoes might have been the work of one of Giotto's successors.

The fact that Goethe, before 1821, began "Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre" with a comparison of the kind constitutes one of those revaluations of the past, begun a century ago, on which almost all our modern conception of art is based. The first art societies and the first brotherhoods of the Nazarenes were founded. While the rest of the world was still lost in the admiration of Raphael, one of their spiritual fathers, the Tyrolese artist Joseph Anton Koch, had himself shut into the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.