Like a Virgin- Evolution of The Madonna

Madonna Enthroned

  • This painting has as realism, and connects to the humanity of man by allowing the Virgin Mary to occupy space , being subject to gravity as she is seated and posed more realistically with foreshortening in her legs. This painting style of a more 3D plane and perspective, as opposed to the 2D quality of the Byzantine style, gave Mary a presence within an actual space and time that we could relate to.
  • Realistic use of color, although the traditional gold background was used, there is warmth in the greens and reds, and humanizing pinks that bring a texture and tone to the skin. The use of this realistic color palate made him a sought after artist of his era.
  • The texture of the skin shimmers and glows as human flesh- with subtle, soft facial expressions that much more relatable then those expressions on Cimbabue’s Madonna Enthroned
  • Space is used more logically, as the perspective leads the viewer up the stairs and into the presence of Mary and baby Jesus. Usually in Byzantine art, there are multiple perspectives that are used-
  • Clothing drapes and falls across the solid underlying structure of the figures, with an iridescence of the material as if it were a sheer silk.
  • Painting the subjects as they would have appeared in reality, Giotto’s brushstrokes ushered in a naturalistic painting style that was used in Renaissance artwork
  • Highlights of shadow and light, and the transition of form as the light hits across the planes of the human form ( note the detail of the soft cylindrical form of Mary’s neck) – Renaissance
  • The physicality of the rendered forms moves away stylistically from the elegant paper thin byzantine human figures.
  • Mary has a sculptural feel to her, giving a relationship to the divine- a Renaissance idea that a painting is a window- that we can enter in with our eyes.
  • Although the composition is still medieval in tradition, the figures that flank Mary and Jesus are carefully placed, and details in facial expressions and realism is rendered to a whole new level
  • In Giotto’s painting of the Madonna Enthroned, those human beings that surround her are living, individuals- a Renaissance concept.
  • Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned- was so revolutionary in its composition, facial expressions and 3D special relationships that it influenced the start of the Renaissance.
  • Angels are placed one in front of the either- creating an expanding space and depth- this study of space and perspective was how the artist of the Renaissance wanted to show depth and realism.
  • Because Giotto lacked the technical knowledge of the human anatomy that artist of the Renaissance would later learn, he depicted what he saw- human emotion, perspective as he saw it- and “life” as he knew it to be.


About the Artist Giotto’s style:

  • Begin was known as “Early Renaissance Painting” a pioneer of the art work
  • Creates work that is voluminous
  • Uses symbolic and 3D form
  • Free flowing cloth is used, that reveals solid bodies underneath
  • Developed his own style, with revolutionary technique of naturalism
  • Substituted the medieval urethral golden skies to a more natural blue
  • Painted people as “real” people, with lines that implied the true human form, emphasising muscle, weight and curves
  • Used brushstrokes that were thick and heavy, unlike the light and flowing lines of other Medieval works

Here’s comparing Giotto’s & Cimabue’s Madonnas:


Detail of the expression of Mary & Jesus in Giotto’s Lamentation Over the Body of Christ:

lamentation of christ.jpg
lamentation of christ.jpg

“For pictures formed by his brush follow nature’s outlines so closely that they seem to the observer to live and breathe and even to perform certain movements and gestures so realistically that they appear to speak, weep, rejoice and do other things.”

—Filippo Villani, De origine civitatis Florentiae et euisdem famosis civibus

“That very same debt painters owe to nature…is also owed, in my opinion, to Giotto, the Florentine painter; for when the methods and outlines of good painting had been buried for so many years by the ruins of war, he alone…revived through God’s grace what had fallen into an evil state and brought it back to such a form that it could be called good.”

—Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects

Works Cited:

“Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance (Getty Center Exhibitions).” Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance (Getty Center Exhibitions). N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

“Giotto – the Inventor and Innovator.” Giotto – the Inventor and Innovator.N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

“Giotto, The Ognissanti Madonna (Madonna Enthroned).” Giotto, The Ognissanti Madonna. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

“Giotto Di Bondone Style and Technique.” Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

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