Development of Art in the Middle Ages

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Giotto di Bondone was a known and admired painter. Most of the painting figures seem flat and dimensional in the Middle Ages, but Giotto’s painting looks three dimensional, the weight of the sculpture, and almost realistic with the strength. Giotto’s work had been looking forward to the Renaissance art styles. Moreover, Giotto’s frescoes in the Chapel of the Arena are the most important paintings in Western art history. Therefore, he decorated the inside of the Arena Chapel with a series of fresco cycles The Life of the Virgin, The Life of Christ, Joachim and Anna, and the Passion.

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In addition, the wealthy man named Eric Scrovegni commissioned Giotto, and he was the son of a banker. The building was decorated by Giotto to apologize for the sin of usury, and Scrovegni’s motivations for building the chapel. This chapel is known as the Arena Chapel because it is next to an Ancient Roman arena later becoming the property of Scrovegni (Flores d’Arcais, 128). In addition, the Chapel is surrounded by images that occur in the entire building. There are several narrative scenes, but there are trompe l’oeil faux marble panels in those scenes. Also, there is the ornamented stone but in fact that all are painting. There is the beginning scattered on the blue sky with the images of Christ, Mary, and another Saint’s.

Next, the cycle begins on the right alter side in the top register, and it introduces Mary’s parents such as Joachim and Anna. In the figure, Joachim is motivated by the addition of the Temple that heeds back to Santa Maria’s foundation in Cosmedin in Rome (Flores d’Arcais, 159). The meeting at the Golden Gate, Yoakim was praying to God because he wanted a child. The angel appears and told to him your prayer is granted. On the other side Ana was praying too for the child, and the angel appears to tell her to go in front of Golden Gate. They both have been visited, and show hope coming together in front of Golden Gate. This was the example of the humanism of Giotto. In his painting, the figure looks at real human beings in art. The drapery is pulling on their faces around their bodies and the emotions. It is showing the feeling of Yoakim and Ana how they came close to each other. The figures showing the volume and weight of the bodies which occur in space three-dimensionally.

More than that, the upper register remains with the description cycle crosswise to the other wall. In the figure, the Birth of Mary, Mary was born, and she presented the temple in the painting of the Presentation of the Temple. Next, she was married in the painting of The Marriage of the Virgin. Below the Annunciation it is showing the circumcision The Fight into Egypt and The Massacre of the Innocents.

Also, moving to the next wall there is a story of the ministry of Christ and his miracles. The Baptism of Christ the story reveals from scene to scene. In the figure, The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the Christ is on the donkey with the 12 apostles behind him. Next, we can see the three or four faces clearly the rest of them are an accumulation of halos. On the right side of the figure, one man is pulling his arm out of his sleeves. Another man is taking out the costume of his head, and the third one is placing the garment at the feet of the donkey.

In the bottom register to the end of the Christ-life devoted to the scene of the Passion is The Arrest of Christ also known as the Kiss of Judas. When the Juda leads the Roman to Christ and they arrest him. They take him away and torture him. The twelve apostles close to Christ, and these are one of the most people that Christ trusted them most. He betrays him for 30 pieces of silver. Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss. In the painting, there is chaos and drama.

Moreover, the most powerful scene in the chapel is The Deposition. Christ has been crucified and taken down off the cross. He is now being mourned by his mother and his followers. Mary holding her dead son reminds the birth which shows the relationship between Mary and her infant son. According to the author, “The powerful Madonna, in a very delicate posture, and St. John, enveloped in a cloak that falls majestically, who opens his arms to define the space” (Flores d’Arcais, 188). Now, we see Mary again holding her dead son on her lap and her arm across around Christ’s neck. This is the modern idea to represent Christ dead, and the painting is showing landscape, foreshortening, emotions, and weight of the figures.

Also, The rocky hill moves our eyes down toward Christ and a rocky hill that forms landscape. At the top, there is the tree and the tree might look dead. There is the two figure we can only see their backs, and there is no representation of their faces. We would never have seen this in the medieval period. All the figures looking toward Mary and Christ. On the top, there are angels therefore shortened. They assist Giotto in creating an illusion of space. The human figures display their grief in different ways. Some are sad and resigned. So, there is a different way of individuality and people are experience emotion in a different way.

In addition, Giotto shows the Annunciation that occupies a focal position above the chancel arch of the church, and it is an essential image of the entire fresco cycle of The Life of the Virgin and The Life of Christ. In the painting of the Annunciation, we can see the illusionism throughout the cycle. Giotto has created an architectural space for each of them If we look to Mary and the Angel. These are not panel paintings with gold backgrounds that suggest a divine space, and these are the earthly setting for the Mary and angel. According to the author, “it is first necessary to demonstrate that the mise-en-scene, body language, and costumes seen in the fresco are all unusual in the context of the narrative cycle and that they all correspond with known staging practices of the liturgical dramas during the Middle Ages” (Jacobus). On the other hand, on the right side of the Annunciation showing the Marry Annunciate in the same vein the Apparition to Saint Anne how is different from the other scenes.

For example, In the figure of Apparition to Saint Anne, “the angel descends into a well-illuminated, recognizably domestic interior, furnished and equipped for comfortable everyday life” (Jacobus). It showing the angel arriving through a high window, and it has a general similarity of the Annunciation in some church dramas such as the fourteenth-century performance at Parma. The figure of Saint Anne showing emotion through facial expression and body language. She is kneeling with her joined hand for prayer and her body turns slightly as she responds to Angel’s presence.

Finally, the Las Judgment is the scene most closely tied to the classical iconography. At the top, two angles unroll the scroll of the universe with the sun and moon. In a mandorla Christ the Judge sits on a throne supported animal, and surrounded by the Apostles. According to the author, “The overwhelming drama and violence of the composition in general and the invention of the extremely cruel details of the scene mark it as the work of the master, who is, after all, a man of the Middle Ages” (Flores d’Arcais, 203).

In conclusion, Giotto decorated the Arena Chapel with the lots of the narrative stories which was commissioned by Eric Scrovegni. All of the painting looks realistic, three dimensional, and full of emotions because in the Middle Ages, most of the painting figures appear flat and one- dimensional. 

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Development of Art in the Middle Ages. (2022, Sep 09). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from

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